The top lawmakers in the Legislature's health committees on Friday called for a vaccination plan for those living in congregate settings to include people in the state's prison system. 

The first 170,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in New York will be made available on December 15, with nursing home residents and staff a priority. But concerns during the pandemic from prison reform advocates have focused on the spread of the virus in prisons, where social distancing is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. 

The vaccine's second phase of distribution should have a component that focuses on people living and working in prisons. 

“Science and sound public health policy point to what we already know: all persons living and working in congregate settings in New York, including those incarcerated in correctional institutions, should have access to COVID vaccines, and should be included in phase 2 distribution," said Assembly Health Committee Chairman Dick Gottfried. "COVID doesn’t distinguish or discriminate between different kinds of congregate settings, and neither should the state of New York."

His counterpart in the state Senate, Health Committee Chairman Gustavo Rivera, agreed. 

“Our state has failed to protect incarcerated New Yorkers throughout the pandemic," River said. "Now that vaccine distribution is about to begin, it is critical that those in correctional facilities are included in the phase 2 distribution. We have learned the hard way that prisons and jails are hotbeds for this virus. We have a responsibility to be proactive in our approach and protect this vulnerable population."

Mike Powers, the president of the union that represents corrections officers, told Capital Tonight in an interview this week more needs to be done to limit the spread of the virus in prisons to better protect his members.