Starting Friday, hundreds of federal inmates will begin to receive COVID-19 vaccines as part of a pilot project, according to the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO). It’s a move that’s sparked debate among federal politicians about who is being prioritized in the early stages of the mass vaccination campaign.
As part of this initial vaccine rollout, 1,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be delivered to prisons across the country. In all, 600 inmates will receive vaccinations, with each inmate getting the required two doses over a few weeks. It remains unclear which vaccine they will be using to immunize the inmates.
In total, across the country, more than 165,000 health care workers, front line staff and seniors have begun receiving shots, with 1.2 million more doses expected to land in this country and be administered to these key groups this month.
Sick and elderly prisoners are being given first access to these shots, but prison officers and employees are not a part of the program, according to the union. National president of the UCCO Jeff Wilkins is pushing to see prison officers vaccinated sooner.
“People are very close together in there, our members are going to work in there every single day,” he said. “They need to be protected.”
Through the pilot, doses will be sent to five prisons: one federal institution Atlantic Canada, one in Quebec, one in Ontario, one in the Prairies, and one on the West Coast to start. The union says it does not know which facilities in particular will be receiving the vaccines.
Correctional Service Canada (CSC) said 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,” said the CSC.