As Canada moves ahead with the largest mass vaccination program in the country’s history–a program abetted Wednesday by Health Canada’s approval of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine–prisoners’ rights advocates say Canadian inmates must not be left behind.
The advocates note that both groups are especially susceptible to illness, especially in buildings with poor ventilation where physical distancing is at a premium.
“I don’t think they should go to the front of the line, but I certainly don’t think they should be denied their rightful place in the priority line simply because they’re prisoners,” Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
A press release from the CSC said the inmates had recently been transferred into the facility from another region.
“The group has been in medical isolation and closely monitored by staff since arrival. The transmission is believed to have occurred prior to arrival at Fraser Valley Institution,” according to the press release.
The announcement followed a series of other reported outbreaks at Canadian prisons–including Joyceville Institution, near Kingston, Ont., Stony Mountain Institution, near Winnipeg, and the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, near Prince Albert.
CP’s Lauren Krugel reports that–as of Monday–there were a total of 201 active COVID-19 cases in federal prisons, according to the Correctional Service of Canada.
Krugel reports that there have also been several outbreaks in provincially run jails.
Inmates are “living in this incredibly restrictive experience, but also facing very grave risk of illness transmission,” Martha Paynter, a registered nurse in Halifax who provides reproductive care to inmates, told CP.
A study released in January found that members of Canada’s Indigenious communities account for more than 30 per cent of the federal inmate population, up from 25 per cent four years ago–a figure that concerns Anita Ho, associate professor in bioethics and health services research at the University of British Columbia,
“In general, health among Indigenous peoples in Canada, because of various social determinants of health, are poorer to start with,” Ho told CP.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations has recommended that adult Indigenous communities be included in Stage 1 of vaccine delivery and said congregate settings should be included in Stage 2.
As of 4 a.m. ET Thursday, 14,597 persons had died from COVID-19 in Canada.
There have been 528,354 cases since the pandemic began last winter.
With files from The Canadian Press (Lauren Krugel), CBC News