COVID-19: 5 Reasons why it’s important to vaccinate prisoners
- Kate Mitchell
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The federal government announced its plan to vaccinate 600 elderly and vulnerable federal prisoners. The Correctional Service of Canada has begun vaccinating prisoners, which is an important step to help control the spread of COVID-19, both in prisons and the community at large.
While the government’s announcement has not been without controversy, there are a number of reasons why it is important to vaccinate prisoners:
- Prisons are at higher risk of outbreaks. Those who live in group settings where COVID-19 may transmit more easily are at a higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19, which includes long-term care facilities, shelters, and correctional facilities. An overview of groups at risk can be found on the Government of Canada’s website. Social distancing is very difficult (if not impossible) in prisons, so vaccines take on an added significance in these environments.
- Many prisoners are particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19 outcomes. There are many prisoners who are elderly or suffer from the types of pre-existing conditions that put them at a heightened risk of severe outcomes. According to CSC’s website, three prisoners have already died as a result of COVID-19, and there are significant outbreaks in prisons across the country in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.
- Outbreaks in prisons put the community at large at risk. An outbreak in a prison exposes correctional staff, healthcare workers, and others who work with prisoners to a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. To protect the health and safety of these individuals, as well as their families and the community more generally, it is important that outbreaks in prisons be avoided.
- Prison outbreaks put strain on local healthcare systems. Many healthcare systems are struggling to cope with the strain created by the second wave of COVID-19. To ensure these systems do not become overburdened, it is important that outbreaks in high risk settings like prison be avoided.
- Outbreaks interfere with programming and other resources that help with rehabilitation and reintegration. The majority of prisoners are serving determinate sentences and will eventually be released. It is important for public safety that prisoners receive the programs and resources they need before they re-enter the community, as this helps ensure that they do not re-offend.
Six hundred prisoners represent a small portion of the federal prison population. As more doses become available, it is important that all prisoners and correctional staff be vaccinated to avoid outbreaks in prison, which put the community at risk and contribute to the strain on local healthcare system.