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COVID-19 Threat to Jails Magnified by Flu

The flu regularly spreads through prisons and jails in the US for many of the same reasons that COVID-19 does. They pack vulnerable people in close quarters, with limited access to soap or other ways to protect themselves. Handling a single outbreak is already a struggle in these places, which often don’t do enough to protect the health of the people living in them.


One of the best ways to manage the flu is through the flu shot, which helps prevent people from getting sick and can make the illness less severe in people who do catch it. Public health experts are pushing everyone to get flu shots this year because lower levels of flu will leave the health care system with more resources to manage COVID-19. In some prisons and jails, though, getting a flu shot can be difficult.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons recommends that all staff and inmates be offered a flu shot and that priority should go to older inmates or inmates who have chronic health conditions. But those guidelines don’t mean most inmates in the US get flu shots; outbreaks regularly happen in prisons where most inmates aren’t vaccinated. 

Access to a flu shot is even more unlikely in jails because people usually only stay in them for a few days. The short length of stay makes offering a shot more challenging, this is not good enough justification, especially in the context of COVID-19, where we’ve seen these major outbreaks in jail settings.

Inmates tend to be repeat offenders, going in and out of jails. Offering them a flu shot helps protect both the jail population and the wider community. There are always many people who would benefit from the influenza vaccine who go to jail, and they should have the ability to get a flu shot when they’re there. This would help cut down on the spread when they leave.


When flu outbreaks do happen in prisons and jails already facing cases of COVID-19, the challenges in those facilities will be compounded. The best way to differentiate between the two diseases is by testing. Access to testing resources for COVID-19 varies widely from jail to jail and from prison to prison. Some jails are well equipped to do this, and others just don’t have the resources to test everyone who should be tested.

Some of the procedures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons could help prevent major influenza outbreaks. But those policies have been unsuccessful in many places. COVID-19 still caused devastating outbreaks in dozens of facilities around the country. Over 100,000 people who are incarcerated have tested positive for the virus.


If you find yourself or a loved one being arrested, make sure you contact our bail bond office as quickly as possible. A-EZ Out Bail Bonds is available 24/7 to bail you out when you need it. You do not have to wait until business hours to call us. If you’re unable to contact us yourself, call a friend or relative and ask them to do it for you.

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