Be careful with categories

Forcing people into categories that may not fit them well is always foolish under any circumstances.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine should not permit it to become a deadly mistake.

Like other states, Ohio has a priority list for immunizations by the still relatively scarce COVID-19 vaccine.

Health care providers and older people, especially those in long-term care facilities, are at the top of the list.

Inmates at jails and prisons are not as high on it.

DeWine has been asked by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio to include inmates in the same vaccine category as people in other group-living arrangements, such as nursing homes.

DeWine should not do that — at least not in an all-encompassing manner.

Some jail and prison inmates, such as older men and women and others with medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19, ought to be high on the vaccine priority list. After all, we have plenty of evidence that shows older people and those with preexisting conditions are much more likely to suffer serious complications from COVID.

We also know incarceration makes it more likely they will pick up the virus. Outbreaks at prisons across the Buckeye State proved deadly during the early months of the pandemic. Even Belmont Correctional Institution right here in St. Clairsville recorded nine inmates deaths. At one point, dozens of inmates and staff members were ill with the virus. The Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ohio National Guard had to be called in to provide the staff with some relief.

But including all jail and prison inmates, even young, healthy men and women, as high priority makes no sense. The only categorizing DeWine should do is trying to protect those most at risk from the virus and those such as health care workers whose services are most in need to fight COVID-19.


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