RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Virginia Department of Corrections has offered a COVID-19 vaccine to all of its employees and every inmate housed in a state prison, according to a department spokeswoman.

While the number of offenders who declined a vaccine is close to double that of the staff members who refused, figures provided by Lisa Kinney, VADOC’s director of communications, reveal a higher percentage of inmates have taken advantage of the department’s offer.

As of noon on Wednesday, March 17, 15,737 of the nearly 24,000 people incarcerated in state prisons and 6,353 of the 11,326 VADOC employees have received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. According to Kinney, 12,829 offenders and 4,241 staff members are fully vaccinated.

The numbers shared with WFXR’s sister station show 8,074 inmates and 4,973 VADOC employees declined the vaccine. Kinney said the department will continue its vaccine education program and is still offering vaccines to those who initially declined a dose.

“We will continue to offer the vaccine to inmates and staff who have thus far declined to take it. Our vaccine education program is ongoing,” Kinney wrote in an email on Thursday, March 18. “We’re airing interviews with medical staff and outside experts, distributing information from the CDC, running an inmate hotline to answer questions, hanging informational posters, etc.”

Since the pandemic struck in March, VADOC has reported more than 9,000 inmates have tested positive. In total, 56 state inmates and 5 VADOC staff members have tested positive and died.

Deerfield Correctional Center in Southampton County, which houses many older and vulnerable inmates, was hit particularly hard by the virus. Nearly 840 inmates in the facility contracted the virus and 19 died.

“Our medical staff have done a tremendous job getting shots into arms as we’ve received the vaccine from the Virginia Department of Health. Global consulting firm Deloitte has been assisting the DOC regarding the strategy for vaccine deployment in collaboration with VDH,” Kinney added.

“Our medical leadership has also been having a weekly consultation with members of the University of Virginia’s infectious disease team regarding vaccine rollout.”