First Michigan corrections employee given COVID-19 vaccine

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

The Michigan Department of Corrections, which accounts for one-quarter of the state government work force, had its first employee vaccinated against COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Cindi Jenkins, a health care worker for the Michigan Department of Corrections, was the first employee in the department to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Jenkins is a 30-year veteran of the corrections department.

Cindi Jenkins, a health unit manager at the Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula and a 30-year veteran of the department, received the Pfizer-BioNTech version of the vaccine about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday at War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, the corrections department said. 

Kinross was the first prison in Michigan to have a COVID case, and then had an outbreak in November where 80% of the inmates there tested positive, along with 119 employees. Half of the health care team also caught the virus.

 “You don’t know if you’re going to be that person that this virus takes down," Jenkins said in a statement. "I’ve watched the repercussions. I’ve never seen anything like this."

According to the Michigan health department's interim guidance on vaccine distribution, health care workers such as Jenkins are first in line durin Phase 1A.

Phase 1B are essential frontline workers and people 75 or older. Non-health care employees of the MDOC fall into Phase 1B. 

Phase 1C consists of other essential workers, those aged 65 to 74, along with people 16 and older with underlying health conditions.

Phase 2 is a mass vaccination campaign for the public. The state's 30,000-plus prisoners fall into phase 2. 

Since March, 117 prisoners have died after positive COVID tests, including eight in the last week. Eight prisoners at the Kinross facility have died.

Four MDOC employees have died after a positive test.

In addition to Jenkins, some health care employees at the Chippewa and Carson City prisons were also vaccinated. More are slated for Thursday, as county health departments receive their allotments, the state said.

A spokesman for the corrections department couldn't immediately be reached.