Prisoners in Tennessee were placed in the last group eligible for vaccines after an advisory panel said prioritizing them would be a PR ‘nightmare’

pfizer vaccine
vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to front-line health care workers under an emergency use authorization at a drive up vaccination site from Renown Health in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020.

Prisoners in the state of Tennessee were placed last on the list of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine after an advisory council feared a “public relations nightmare” should they be given priority access, the Associated Press reported.

According to the report, published Saturday, the Pandemic Vaccine Planning Stakeholder group, the council tasked with forming recommendations for the state’s vaccine rollout, noted that incarcerated people would “be a vector of general population transmission” if left “untreated.” 

The advisory council first met in September 2020 and consists of 40 public health agencies, healthcare coalitions, public officials, emergency management, and other organizations, according to the Associated Press report.

Some corrections staff have been vaccinated, according to the report, but the exact number in the state of Tennessee is not publicly available. No prisoners have yet been vaccinated, according to the report. 

The Tennessee Department of Health did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment Saturday.

The Tennessee vaccination plan includes incarcerated people in Phase 3 of its vaccination plan, behind healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, people with high-risk conditions, and corrections facility staff. Inmates who currently qualify to receive the vaccine due to their age have not yet been vaccinated, according to the AP report Saturday.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press showed that the advisory council concluded there would be “lots of media inquiries” had it opted to prioritize immunizations for incarcerated people, even though it contended that inmates were “part of the community,” according to the report.

Throughout the pandemic, incarcerated people in the US have been at a heightened risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, while advocates have complained about conditions at jails and prisons that have put inmates at the heightened risk.

In July 2020, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that prisoners were infected by COVID-19 at a rate over five times higher than the general population. In December, a report from The Marshall Project and the AP found that 1 in 5 prisoners in the US had contracted COVID-19, compared to about 1 in 20 people in the general population. More than 1,700 inmates have died of the virus, also as of December. 

In Tennessee, one in three prisoners has tested positive for COVID-19, according to data from the AP and from the Marshall Project. 

The Associated Press report Saturday emphasizes the longstanding debate about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the US, and in particular the rollout of vaccines in incarcerated populations. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued general guidance, states ultimately control vaccine eligibility. 

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Investigators believe the Nashville blast was a suspected suicide bombing. Human remains found at the explosion site, reports say.

nashville explosion
: FBI and first responders work the scene after an explosion on December 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.

  • An explosion in Nashville linked to a parked RV left three people injured and destroyed much of a downtown street on Christmas Day.
  • Investigators now believe that the explosion could have been the result of a suicide bombing, according to CNN.
  • Human remains were found near the site of the blast. The FBI is now trying to locate the mother of a suspected bomber to see if they belong to him.
  • The blast had already been referred to as “intentional” and “deliberate” by local officials.
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Investigators looking into the Christmas Day blast on a Nashville street now believe that the huge explosion was the result of a suicide bombing, two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation told CNN.

It follows the news that investigators found human remains near the site of the powerful blast, according to CBS News.

Nashville’s police chief John Drake revealed on Friday evening that tissue had been discovered. 

The tissue was confirmed to be from a human following DNA tests on Saturday, according to a report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency seen by USA Today.

It is believed that whoever set off the bomb was likely killed in the explosion, law enforcement sources told CBS News.

FBI agents are now trying to locate the mother of a leading suspect, two law enforcement officers told Newsweek.

On Saturday, multiple news outlets reported that Nashville police were investigating a “person of interest.” He has since been identified as 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner.

FBI agents searched Warner’s home in Antioch, Tennessee, on Saturday afternoon. He owned an RV that was a similar make and model to the one used in Friday’s explosion, according to CBS News.

nashville bomb rv
An image of Anthony Quinn Warner’s RV, outside his home in Antioch, Tennessee.

The RV had previously been pictured in Google Street View searches of Warner’s property, but it has not been seen on his driveway since at least the day of the explosion, reported Newsweek.

On Friday, authorities had already confirmed that the blast was likely ‘intentional’.

Nashville’s mayor John Cooper later said: “Initial evidence does show that it was a deliberate bomb being set off in our community.”

The blast injured three civilians and damaged 41 buildings.

The FBI is currently seeking information on the explosion. More than 500 tips have been received since the blast took place.

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