KINGSTON, ONT. — CTV News Ottawa confirms that inmates at federal prisons across the country are going to be receiving COVID-19 vaccines starting this week.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO) says the pilot project will begin Friday.
1,200 doses of the vaccine will be delivered to prisons across the country. In all, 600 inmates will be vaccinated, with each inmate getting the required two doses. It remains unclear which institutions in Canada will receive doses of the vaccine.
Sick and elderly prisoners will be prioritized, but prison officers and employees are not a part of the program.
Correctional Service Canada (CSC) says in a statement that they are following health guidelines for vaccinations.
“We have worked very closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada to respond to every aspect of the pandemic, including the provision of vaccines to inmates,” says the CSC.
Prisons have been a significant source of outbreaks across the country. In eastern Ontario, the Joyceville Institution in Kingston has an ongoing outbreak where 150 inmates have tested positive for the virus.
Justin Piché is an associate professor in the criminology department at the University of Ottawa. He says inmates are especially vulnerable.
“Even when they’re in lockdown, their cells are right beside each other,” he says. “So, if someone gets COVID-19 and coughs, and that gets in the air, it doesn’t have to travel very far for someone to get infected.”
Officers and prison employees will have to wait for the Province of Ontario’s second vaccination phase, which is expected to begin in March, but there is no firm date yet.
National president of the UCCO, Jeff Wilkins, says prison officers should be vaccinated too.
“People are very close together in there, our members are going to work in there every single day,” he says. “They need to be protected.”
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