LETTER: Correctional officers should get vaccine before smokers

John Eckenrode
Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association
FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2020, file photo, Penny Cracas, with the Chester County, Pa., Health Department, fills a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before administering it to emergency medical workers and healthcare personnel at the Chester County Government Services Center in West Chester, Pa. About 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association renews its call for the Wolf administration and the new COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force to prioritize vaccinating corrections officers in state prisons over smokers.

It’s one thing to follow CDC guidelines regarding smokers, but that doesn’t prevent the administration from making the vaccination of its own corrections officers a higher priority.

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Our state prison system continues to be overwhelmed by COVID, but for some reason the Wolf administration has decided to ignore its own corrections officers, who are risking their lives every day in some of the worst conditions of this pandemic. Recently, over 800 inmates and officers tested positive at SCI-Forest.

Our members are overworked, exhausted and are working massive amounts of overtime due to COVID-19 illnesses within their ranks. The mental anguish of passing the virus to their loved ones also takes a tremendous toll. That’s why the decision by the administration to put smokers ahead of corrections officers is repugnant.

It’s our hope the task force will right this wrong and take care of the people working in some of the worst pandemic conditions in this commonwealth.

— John Eckenrode is president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.