Most inmates infected in a COVID-19 Delta variant outbreak at a Texas prison were fully vaccinated, but hospitalizations and deaths were higher among the unvaccinated, a new report finds.
Of 172 prisoners who contracted the virus, 75 percent has received one of the three approved shots in the U.S., from either Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
However, inmates who hadn’t received their immunizations were up to three times mire likely to be hospitalized or die from Covid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The authors say the findings show how highly transmissible the Delta variant is, but that vaccines still protect recipients from the most severe outcomes of the virus.
A new CDC report looked at a summer 2021 Delta variant outbreak at a Texas prison that saw 172 prisoners infected with COVID-19, of which 75% were fully vaccinated. Pictured: Prisoners at the Bolivar County Correctional Facility in Cleveland, Mississippi, receive COVID-19 vaccines, April 2021
Four patients – three of whom were unvaccinated – required hospitalization and one unvaccinated patient died. Pictured: Most prisoners developed Covid symptoms six days and 14 days before testing positive
The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging for inmates inside jails and prisons.
Many correctional facilities are overcrowded or have common areas where social distancing cannot be practiced.
There is often insufficient amounts of soap in bathroom to wash their hands and a lack of access to cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizer and wipes.
As states ramped up testing as the pandemic dragged on, it’s become more clear how widespread the problem is.
The new report, published on Friday from the CDC, shows how quickly the virus – and particularly the highly transmissible Delta variant – can spread in prison, but also how vaccines protect people from the most severe effects of the disease.
According to the report, the outbreak occurred in summer 2021 in two housing units at a federal prison in Texas.
The first cases were detected on July 12 when 18 prisoners, 11 of whom had been fully vaccinated, tested positive for the virus via rapid antigen tests.
The prisoners lived in two interconnected units that housed 233 men living in two- to 10-person cells.
All 233 inmates were tested between July 12, 2021 and August 14, 2021 with 172 ultimately confirmed to have the virus.
Genome sequencing from 58 specimens revealed the outbreak had been caused by the Delta variant.
Of the infected prisoners, 129 – or 75 percent – were fully vaccinated. The remaining 43 cases were among partially vaccinated or unvaccinated.
In total, 66 percent of the fully vaccinated prisoners who caught the virus had received the Pfizer vaccine, 27 percent had received the Moderna shot and 10 percent had received the J&J jab.
Fifty percent of the vaccinated prisoners who fell ill had been inoculated between four and six months prior the outbreak, suggesting waning efficacy.
However, attack rates were higher among unvaccinated prisoners with 129 of 185 vaccinated prisoners falling ill compared to 39 of 42 unvaccinated prisoners.
That suggests a 70 percent attack rate among those who were immunized and a 93 percent attack rate for those who didn’t get their shots.
Among the infected inmates, four were hospitalized, including three unvaccinated patients and one fully vaccinated patient, which shows a hospitalization rate three times higher for unvaccinated people.
What’s more, just one patient, who was unvaccinated, required mechanical intubation and died.
‘This study demonstrates the potential for SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant outbreaks in congregate settings including correctional and detention facilities, even among resident populations with high vaccination coverage,’ the authors wrote.
‘In this outbreak…fewer hospitalizations and deaths occurred among vaccinated than unvaccinated persons, highlighting vaccination as an important strategy to reduce serious COVID-19–related illness and death in congregate settings.’