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First inmates at Springhill Institution get COVID-19 vaccine

Springhill Institution
Springhill Institution - SaltWire Network

Ten elderly inmates at the Springhill Institution were scheduled to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on Friday.

Over the coming weeks, 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine, enough for 600 people, will be given to federal inmates across the country who are judged to be at the highest risk due to age or being immune-compromised to suffer serious complications from COVID-19.

The correctional officers who guard them won’t be getting any of those doses.

“Our members are going in bravely every single day to do their jobs but they are also facing this invisible threat that they could take home to their families,” said Jeff Wilkins, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

“The front-line workers in those pandemic sites should be the first to be vaccinated.”

While there hasn’t been an outbreak of COVID-19 at the federal prison in Springhill, there have been at other institutions across the country. According to Wilkins, 260 of his members have tested positive for COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic thus far.

For its part, the Correctional Service of Canada explained in a written response that under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, it is obliged to provide essential healthcare to inmates.

“Vaccines provide an additional measure to limit the spread of the virus and is key to further protect everyone,” reads the statement.

“We will continue to follow the (National Advisory Committee on Immunization) guidelines and work with our public health partners to support the timely allocation, distribution and administration of the vaccine for inmates under our care as efficiently, equitably and effectively as possible.”

Responsibility for vaccinating the guards, according to CSC, falls with the province.

According to the province’s immunization schedule, vaccination of essential workers will begin in May.

Currently the focus is on front-line health workers, staff and residents of long-term care facilities and community members over the age of 80.

West Nova MP Chris d’Entremont joined the fray, arguing that the vaccines should be provided to the provinces and distribution should be according to their guidelines.

“The provinces are masters of their domain; let's continue to help them get to as many Canadians as possible,” said d’Entremont.

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