Francesca Paceri, a registered pharmacist technician, carefully fills a needle with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something most jurisdictions have yet to do. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Francesca Paceri, a registered pharmacist technician, carefully fills a needle with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something most jurisdictions have yet to do. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Some provinces yet to say when jail inmates to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Experts say that inmates are in a vulnerable situation when it comes to the pandemic

A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something half of jurisdictions have yet to do.

The Correctional Service of Canada has started vaccinations for federal prisoners who are older or considered “medically vulnerable.” But, as of last week, provinces had yet to start giving shots to inmates awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences in provincial jails.

“Prisoners are disproportionately impacted by health conditions that would make them very susceptible to serious illness and death as a result of COVID,” said Abby Deshman with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Because of a limited vaccine supply, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends people in correctional centres get inoculated behind those in long-term care homes, seniors 70 and older, critical health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities.

British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia said that, as of last week, prisoners and staff are scheduled for vaccination in the second round of inoculations, with estimated start dates between next month and June.

Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec didn’t provide a timeline for when inmates will receive their shots. Newfoundland and Labrador said its inmates will be part of the second phase of its vaccine distribution, but didn’t specify dates.

Saskatchewan said the ranking of vulnerable groups is still to be determined.

The Northwest Territories and Yukon planned to start giving shots this week. Nunavut didn’t respond to inquiries.

Deshman was part of a research project that tracked COVID-19 cases in jails and prisons. It found that since Dec. 1, there have been at least 1,962 infections among staff and inmates — more than all of the cases reported from last March until November.

“We should have targets for immunizing key vulnerable populations, regardless of who they are,” she said.

“If those targets need to be adjusted, if they cannot be met, that needs to be publicly communicated and explained.”

She noted some politicians, including federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have pushed back against early vaccinations for federal inmates.

Justin Piche, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, said there are far fewer older prisoners in provincial jails than in federal prisons, where one out of five inmates is 50 and older.

He said rhetoric from leaders that pits one group against another isn’t helpful.

“Prisons are among the congregate settings that are seeing significant transmission,” he said.

“You have prisoners who are getting COVID-19 at higher rates. You have prison staff that are going in and out of there on a day-to-day basis, going back to their families, going back to their communities.”

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers believes it’s wrong that Ottawa didn’t vaccinate correctional staff along with prisoners, and instead left it up to provinces to decide where staff fall in the vaccine line.

”It’s completely foolish,” said national president Jeff Wilkins.

“We have (Saskatchewan Penitentiary), for example, which has seen quite an extensive outbreak. Our members are getting burnt out.”

As of last week, Manitoba listed provincial and federal correctional health-care workers as eligible to be vaccinated.

Wilkins wants to see correctional officers inoculated along with long-term care staff.

“In some areas, we’ve seen the rates of the institution be much higher than the community.”

Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, questions why doses were sent to institutions in Atlantic Canada, which have no active COVID-19 cases, while inmates in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are at higher risk.

Latimer is also concerned about what she says is solitary confinement-like measures being used to contain the novel coronavirus.

“It’s a very, very harsh correctional environment right now,” she said.

“We’re probably going through the worst period in terms of general corrections, at least on the federal side, in the last 50 years.”

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusprisonvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Part of a new housing development proposal for the former Alberni District Secondary School site. (SCREENSHOT)
Housing gap widens in Port Alberni

Vancouver Island city suffers from ‘missing middle’ to housing density

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires Vancouver Island wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

The Port Alberni Train Station is located outside the entrance to Harbour Quay, on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Port Alberni gets funding to restore heritage train station

Historic train station needs seismic upgrades

Raw logs are loaded onto a logging ship from a log sort down the Alberni Inlet in March 2019. SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News
Port Alberni light on industrial land

Report finds few suitable locations for new industry

Cowichan Valley writer Jennifer Manuel will headlining YakFest on March 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cowichan Valley writer to headline next YakFest on March 1

YakFest is a B.C.-based monthly women’s event held online via Zoom

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Most Read