Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners title=
Dr. Homer Venters, a New York-based epidemiologist, was recently appointed by President Biden to his COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force | Credit: Courtesy
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This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.

By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

A second court-ordered medical inspection of the Lompoc prison complex ― where a major COVID-19 outbreak last spring killed at least four inmates and sickened more than 1,000 ― has revealed an alarmingly low vaccination acceptance rate among the population. 

Dr. Homer Venters, the epidemiologist who performed the inspection as part of a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), said he was “extremely concerned” about the roughly 50 percent rate, which he attributed to prison staff neglecting to address inmates’ “very valid and predictable concerns” about the effects the vaccine might have on their underlying health conditions.

Venters interviewed 67 prisoners on April 20 and 21, 33 of whom had refused the COVID-19 vaccine, citing worries about how it might impact their heart disease, autoimmune disorder, diabetes, cancer, asthma, and other diagnoses. The majority of the all-male Lompoc complex is low-security and houses elderly individuals.

Rather than address these fears, Venters said, prison staff dismissively told the inmates to either “take the vaccine or sign a refusal form.”

“Many of the people who reported refusing the vaccine told me they were willing to take it but simply had questions about their own health status,” Venters said. 

The Lompoc detention complex was the site of one of the worst COVID-19 prison outbreaks in the country. | Credit: Courtesy

“The approach of BOP Lompoc not only fails to engage with patients; it has a paradoxical effect of creating a pool of extremely high-risk unvaccinated patients,” he continued. “In other detention settings I have worked in, a COVID-19 refusal by a high-risk patient would result in a prompt session with a physician or mid-level provider because the consequences of infection are so grave.”

Prison guards, Venters discovered, had a similarly low vaccination acceptance rate ― approximately 50 percent. He was told by BOP leadership that they were “limited by what they could force their staff to do.” He suggested outreach and education, neither of which had been attempted.

Venters, who was recently appointed by President Biden to his COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and had previously visited the Lompoc facility in September 2020, also uncovered serious ongoing problems with the medical care provided to prisoners, including critical delays and deficiencies in treatment. 

In one particular instance, Venters noted, a 62-year-old man who contracted and ultimately died from COVID-19 “had lost the use of his lower extremities, sustained multiple falls, and was often incontinent of bowel and bladder” before he was finally transferred to an outside hospital. The man, Fidel Torres, was serving time on marijuana charges.

In four other cases, Venters said, inmates reported “ongoing respiratory and neurological symptoms from their COVID-19 infection many months prior, and that they were not receiving care.”

Venters was particularly frustrated that, despite assurances from prison leadership, none of the 49 inmates he spoke with who held work assignments ― including in food service, the chapel, the medical bay, and in administration ― reported ever being screened by staff for symptoms. 

“It is apparent that BOP Lompoc has failed to implement screening of inmate workers since this issue was raised in my prior inspection report, leading me to conclude that they and the BOP view the screening of workers as unimportant or trivial to their COVID-19 response,” Venters said.

“I am dismayed that despite multiple assurances on my first inspection that this process was in place, and clear evidence that it was not, I returned six months later to be told once again that this process was occurring and find the same complete lack of screening of workers,” he went on. “This failure might be of lesser consequence if no new cases of COVID-19 had occurred, but there have been 95 cases of COVID-19 among incarcerated people since this issue was raised.”

Venters was perhaps most exasperated by the slapshod way Lompoc officials investigated the four COVID-19 deaths at their facility. The investigative records he was provided appeared incomplete and at times outright misleading. 

“I cannot explain why the BOP stated that there had been no COVID-19 related hospitalizations since my initial inspection when one of these deaths was clearly COVID-19 related and involved hospitalization,” Venters wrote. “I am also concerned that in one of these deaths, despite the patient’s report of not receiving his medications for a disease that was central to his death, there was no structured review of medication access before the BOP judged his care to be adequate and appropriate.”

Venters said he’d personally conducted or participated in well over 100 mortality reviews, and it was uncommon for a report to conclude not a single aspect of a patient’s care could have been improved in some way. It was even more rare, he said, for four sequential reports to make the same findings. In fact, he said, it was unheard of. 

“The records of people who died in BOP custody at Lompoc have clear deficiencies and/or areas of improvement,” Venters concluded, “and the fact that no recommendations are made in the multi-level mortality reviews clearly establish that these are systemic failings that transcend BOP Lompoc.” He noted a “clear need for independent review of deaths from COVID-19 at Lompoc and elsewhere within the BOP.”

Less consequential, but nonetheless noteworthy, were discoveries by Venters that prison guards coached inmates how to respond to his questions, and hastily distributed hygiene supplies shortly before his arrival.

“In the days before my inspection, inmates were directed by security staff on how to answer my questions,” Venters said. “Several people specifically reported that security staff told them to report that they always wipe down common surfaces and electrical sockets every 15 minutes. Each of the people who told me of being directed about this point also stated that they had never once done this.”

Moreover, Venters said, “Several people reported that minutes before the inspection, the lack of any soap in the bathroom had been noticed by security staff who went to the kitchen and took bags of soap from there and simply dropped the unopened bags into the sinks of the housing area.”

The performative nature of these actions by guards, Venters concluded, “forces a pessimistic assessment about how seriously the facility and the BOP take their own policies, the guidelines of the CDC, and basic infection control.”

Venters, however, saved some of his harshest criticism for the prison’s “punitive approach to quarantine.” Inmates under regular intake quarantine are confined to their cells 22-24 hours in a six-tiered wing known as the Secure Housing Unit (SHU), which is normally used to confine the prison’s most violent and erratic offenders. They are denied basic privileges like phone access, yard time, or regular showers, and many men told Venters their quarantine experience “was more psychologically stressful than disciplinary segregation in other prisons.”

“One year into the pandemic,” Venters said, “there is no excuse for denial of basic services and rights to people under the guise of infection control.”

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Babycakes May 24, 2021 06:12 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

The article states, "Dr. Homer Venters, the epidemiologist who performed the inspection as part of a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)....." Was this doctor vetted by the ACLU prior to his inspection? Was the inspection a foregone conclusion prior to the inspection? I would think that the ACLU would only select someone who they knew was going to side with their cause.
Lastly, maybe it's my failing eyesight, but does the does Dr. Venters have a-n-y relation to former Attorney General William Barr? At a minimum, the doctor is rockin' those Barr "roundie" specs.

lovesbalot May 22, 2021 04:17 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex, claims the widespread COVID-19 outbreak represents not only a medical and humanitarian crisis, but also violates constitutional rights against “cruel and unusual punishment.” The federal Bureau of Prisons has mismanaging one of the worst public health catastrophes related to COVID-19 anywhere in the country according to the ACLU who filed the class action suit. ill inmates have received inadequate or no care, despite being obviously sick. One inmate was placed in solitary confinement and then transferred to an unsanitary housing unit with other COVID-19 patients. “He languished there without treatment, then was put back into the general population without being re-tested,” the suit says. One prisoner was sent home on a greyhound bus so sick and untreated with covid he died four days later. This to me shows how little they care for their former prisoner and the common good.Lompoc has 1107.00 cases more than any other prison in the country.
Keep on keeping us informed Tyler. For those of us who care and understand human rights your work is vital.

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The lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California noted that after “a series of unconscionable delays, blunders and failures to follow official guidelines, the situation grew unimaginably worse.”

“While the rest of California took extraordinary measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Bureau of Prisons failed to take preventive measures as basic as isolating sick prisoners, allowing social distancing or providing enough soap,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.

“Their deliberate indifference to the risk of disease violates the Constitution, and puts both those in prison and the surrounding community at risk.”

dukemunson May 22, 2021 04:41 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

Loves - Your quoting a lawsuit about prison inmates who died at a lower rate then the general population as evidence??? Just stop... your whole thinking here is so wildly out of touch with reality as to be laughable. Inmates were quarantined in not spectacularly pleasant situations as they entered prison... its prison!!!! And the prisoners have the choice of whether they get the vaccine or not... and somehow that’s bad/unconstitutional ???

Just inane arguments. Like the general population, X number of people aren’t taking the vaccine. That number mirrors the generally population. I’m guessing you are either the author or the interviewed “expert” of this piece, which ok, fine... defend it... but it’s truly silly. The prisons seemingly did a pretty amazing job with COVID... this dumb hit piece actually illustrates it pretty well!

Only 4 out of the 1000+ COVID positive Older population inmates died of COVID and they all got to decide if they got the vaccine or not.

And let’s not forget that prisoners all got access to the vaccine earlier than the general population. I mean seriously... the this is truly ridiculous outrage Love... silly in fact...

dukemunson May 25, 2021 11:25 AM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

I appreciate the concern! It's also a bit of a pet peeve as well when someone goes anonymous and calls you a "fool" and accuses you of using bad data...and then uses bad data!!! And you can't truly call them out because they went anonymous even though you know they were pushing the 3% death rate and using it to justify shutting everything down (including school) all Fall, Winter and Spring!! It's just such a spectacular combination of dishonesty and pettiness that when you add in a slow work day...I will continuously refute (and do my best to wear out the exclamation point key on my keyboard!!!)!!!

dukemunson May 25, 2021 11:12 AM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

Sac - I get it...but at the same time, come on man...this poster refuted CDC data from THIS WEEK with a small study from May to August 2020 in the UK. There are somehow still people who think the COVID death rate is 1.8% (or higher!). Intentional misinformation and lies need to be refuted. Republicans didn't do that enough with Trump...and on the flip side it needs to be done on Edhat when someone repeatedly uses false numbers, seemingly on purpose. So...on a slow'ish work day...I feel compelled to refute the lies that have persisted for a year. We all make mistakes...but the data here is irrefutable.

sacjon May 25, 2021 11:03 AM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

DUKE. HEY. Let it go man. You've been at this all day for at least the past 3 days. I've learned to stop after a day. You should get some rest and focus on something else. There is no point arguing with what was done. We're all free now to take off our masks if vaxxed and outdoors. Dude, with all due respect, you need a break.

dukemunson May 25, 2021 10:58 AM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners the study that a peer reviewed research group said:

"Their estimate of excess deaths is enormous and inconsistent with our research and others," said Dr. Steven Woolf, who led the Virginia Commonwealth team. "There are a lot of assumptions and educated guesses built into their model."

But let's go with it! OK...900,000 Americans have died from Covid. Using the CDC's numbers of how many people have had COVID, it puts the fatality rate at .78%. So using a study that is (to many reserchers) wildly off, you still "only" end up at .78%.

Any interest in responding with your actual screen name? Be interesting to see if you were a 7%'er or a 5%'er or a 3%'er or (as of yesterday) a 1.8%'er and if you are willing to accept that even with (what some consider "wildly off") are not even at .8%

I get it's easier to just anonymously call me a "fool" and try and try and sweep under the rug all those 3% rants from the year...but have some's OK to admit when your wrong.

a-1621964061 May 25, 2021 10:34 AM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

You fools do projection really well.
The death toll from COVID is now estimated to be at least 57% higher than the currently listed totals:

dukemunson May 25, 2021 07:11 AM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

So... you are just going to ignore all current CDC (and the WHO’s and all major studies and data) and go with a small 9 month old study?

Is the cdc lying? How many people have had COVID?

The dishonesty of the science denying fear lingering COVIDIOTS is staggering. I show you the data from the accepted authority/source and you can’t/won’t respond... it doesn’t fit your narrative of continual shutdowns and fear....

dukemunson May 24, 2021 09:04 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

I have to correct myself. There is a fairly decent chance that you do know what the numbers and IFR are (and mean)...the fake ones just work out better for you. It’s been good business (and a good life choice) for a certain number of people to wildly distort and inflate the numbers. Direct deposit paycheck is pretty sweet...

dukemunson May 24, 2021 08:13 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

The funny thing is, you so completely don’t understand the COVID numbers or what IFR even means, that you are bewildered when the CDC says how many people have died, and how many have had COVID... what to do... what that could mean. No...
I’ll ignore the CDC’s updated data from last week and go with a study in England that was published 7 months ago using data from 9 months ago.

Please... I’m begging you... don’t go anonymous on the response to this... have some faith (any!) in what you’ve posted over the last year...

dukemunson May 24, 2021 08:07 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

736pm - So... you dont have a calculator and you trust a 7 month old non peer reviewed study over the CDC’s updated data from LAST WEEK... ok!!!!

The only bummer here is you went anonymous with your posts... so we can’t go back and pinpoint if you were a “10% fatality rate poster”, a “7% fatality poster”, a “5%’er”. or a “3%’er”...

Like most people (not to mention logic and the CDC) I’ve been at .4% to .67% for a year.

Where’s the fiction? Answer this: Are you saying the cdc is wrong and 114 million people haven’t had COVID? Any why not post with your name... are you embarrassed to be down to 1.15% after touting 5% for so long? If so... don’t be!!! Your finally only off by twice the number... which considering where you were is quite amazing!!!

a-1621910218 May 24, 2021 07:36 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

The CDC data do not include IFR, which you are deriving yourself. Any IFR is, of course, a guesstimate, but the IFR of 1.15% is from a medical study:

I love the little added stream-of-consciousness fictional narratives you add to the end of each post. Sometimes even the entire post.

dukemunson May 24, 2021 05:51 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

542pm - the dishonesty is just staggering. I am posting the CDC’s numbers... you are posting an intentionally misleading stat in an effort to... I don’t even know... what’s your aim here... spread and maintain fear??!!! You posted a 1.8% fatality rate... this is obviously wrong. As per the CDC (and logic) it’s .5%... of which 95% of that .5% is the elderly.

What matters is the total number of cases. You are saying that there are 4 dolphins in the Pacific Ocean because that’s what you saw at ledbetter yesterday.

Some People have believed (including some policy makers) that the fatality rate was 5%... then 3%... then 1.8%... this was wrong and pretty much everyone knew it, including some of the people who kept saying it.

So which are you... are you intentionally trying to deceive people or do you somehow just not understand the CDC data?

a-1621903355 May 24, 2021 05:42 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

Why do you blather hysterically about fear? I doubt that the difference between 0.51% and 1.15% IFR is going to change anyone's behavior. It is always better, though, to report verified results from the medical profession, rather than ad-hoc stats concocted by people with absolutely no expertise in the subject matter.

dukemunson May 24, 2021 03:46 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

Amateur calculations??? What are you talking about??? Source the fatality numbers???? THE CDC!!!!! The CDC is saying over 114 million people in the US have had COVID and that there have been 587, 342 deaths. This isn't some's literally the accepted numbers on COVID. Seriously...Look at the two CDC links can you fight/refute this? It's literally not possible.

dukemunson May 24, 2021 02:46 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

It starts to make sense why some people are seemingly so over the top scared and petrified...they are ignoring the data and think the fatality rate is 3 to 4 times what it actually is. Look at the will help you live life better and more enjoyably once you actually see what we are dealing with. It was and still is scary...but it's drastically less scary than you think it is. Please...look at the CDC numbers and know that we didn't catch and record every single COVID case...we didn't even come close.

dukemunson May 24, 2021 02:39 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners you not have a calculator????? Everyone is pretty on board with what the death total is (590k) it's pretty straight forward, as long as you can type in that many numbers in your calculator and know which one to put first and....

I mean seriously, what????? This CDC article states the number of infections they believe have occurred in the US.

dukemunson May 24, 2021 02:30 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

1 in 4.3 COVID cases (as per the CDC) are reported. It's why the case fatality rate is such a ridiculous metric to follow, despite how zealous it is by certain edhatters. What matters is the total number of infections, which the epidemologists at the CDC (and the world over) know to be quite a bit higher than reported...which is why they report the actual rate to be around .5%

dukemunson May 24, 2021 01:35 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

Nonbidenary - In addition to the morally reprehensible aspect of the let them all die from COVID stance (which yes is morally reprehensible) there is also a logical fallacy...COVID kills less than 1/2 of 1% of people. So if everyone in the prison gets it... virtually everyone still lives. So your point is morally and logically wrong.

Voice of Reason May 22, 2021 12:35 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

What is way more concerning, is that they estimate 40-50% of CDC and FDA employees have not been vaccinated. Think about that. Wouldn’t the same agency that pushed for the mass closures and restrictions to protect us from this extremely dangerous virus, be climbing over each other for the vaccine, which they had early access to?

Voice of Reason May 24, 2021 10:30 AM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

Does no one else really have a problem with 40+% of the same agency that shut down the entire country due to Covid-19, decline the Covid-19 vaccination? If 40% of the CDC think that they don't need the vaccine, or the risks aren't worth the benefit, then WTF were we doing these past 14 months!?! (*yes naysayers who refuse to address the question and would rather attack little pieces, the 40% is an estimate by the head of the CDC and not exact, even 10% either way is an incredibly large portion of the agency that thought Covid-19 was such a huge risk we needed to shut the country down.)

dukemunson May 24, 2021 12:58 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

LCP - I truly didn’t intend to write it with any hostile or even antagonistic tone. My apologies if it came address that way. It’s an interesting rabbit hole... your point made a lot of sense... and i truly was just curious why (if we are going for the greater good) stop at prisoners... why not mandate everyone?

LCP112233 May 23, 2021 01:50 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

Hi Duke. Thanks for asking. I totally believe in vaccinations being an individual choice. In fact, I am an anti vaxer from way back. My children were not vaccinated because I believe that a natural immune system is a stronger one. I only vaccinate my dog so that he can be boarded at the kennel. Being that we are smack dab in the middle of a pandemic that has ruined many lives in more ways than one and changed our lives forever, I chose to get my vaccination for the greater good. I am extremely happy that the vaccinations appear to be working and we are getting somewhat back to normal.

I believe that prisoners should be vaccinated for their own good and the good of the employees that have to take care of them. Covid has proven to be a problem in prisons due to the confinement in close quarters with many other people. They should be vaccinated and not have a choice. It was their choice to commit whatever crime that landed them in prison. They should not have a vaccination choice.

a-1621800831 May 23, 2021 01:13 PM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

3:54 AM -

Once again you come out with the antivax lies about "experimental" and the Nuremberg code. What motivates people to spread harmful nonsense?

FollowingScienc... May 22, 2021 11:23 AM
Doctor ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Low Vaccination Rate Among Lompoc Prisoners

When Dr. Homer Venters opines we should all listen carefully, for this epidemiologist and human rights advocate knows of what he speaks:

This article defines a tragic breakdown in a “healthcare” system which affects all of us (the global community, actually). That these inmates AND THEIR GUARDS are not even counseled by knowledgeable HCP’s upon refusing vaccine is unacceptable. If you don’t believe in social justice, consider where those guards are going to and coming from after work? If you guessed “into the community”, that would be correct.

And no, we do not know whether having had the disease actually confers further immunity, or not:


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