New York must open COVID vaccine eligibility to all inmates, judge rules

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A Bronx judge on Monday ruled that New York must offer all state prison and jail inmates the coronavirus vaccine — calling the group’s past eligibility exclusion “unfair and unjust.”

The decision by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Alison Tuitt came the same day that state officials announced all adults over 30 will be eligible to sign up for and receive the COVID-19 jab by Tuesday — and everybody 16 years and older can get the shot next week.

“This decision by the Respondents to exclude these incarcerated persons from eligibility for the vaccine was unquestionably arbitrary and capricious, especially in light of the fact that Respondents approved vaccinations for all other congregate living facilities, including juvenile detention facilities,” Tuitt wrote in her ruling.

“This was an unfair and unjust decision by Respondents, was not based in law or fact and was an abuse of discretion.”

The ruling was part of a lawsuit brought against the state by two Rikers Island inmates, Charles Holden, 52, and Alberto Frias, 24.

Both men say in the suit, which was filed last month, that they were never offered vaccinations.

But, Tuitt noted in her ruling, Holden has since become eligible to receive a shot as the state’s age eligibility threshold has changed.

“However, as of today, Petitioner Frias and other incarcerated individuals under the age of 30 years of age are still not eligible for the vaccine, notwithstanding that they are being held in congregate settings,” Tuitt wrote.

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