Prison unions want inmates, officials to be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccine

More than 500 inmates and over 100 prison officials have already rolled up their sleeves to receive their jabs; 182 officials and 78 prisoners have succumbed to the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

FILE: Inmates wait inside Leeuwkop Correctional Facility along the stairs. Picture: Thomas Holder/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - The South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights wants coronavirus vaccinations at correctional facilities to be fast-tracked.

Overcrowding, which could lead to outbreaks at prisons, has been a ticking time bomb - warned the organisation on Tuesday.

More than 500 inmates and over 100 prison officials have already rolled up their sleeves to receive their jabs; 182 officials and 78 prisoners have succumbed to the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

News that the country's over 138,000 offenders are being prioritised for vaccines has been met with disdain by many. While the Department of Correctional Services deals with 320 active cases, 87.5% of these are officials.

“Overcrowded prisons and understaffing of prison staff equals to a ticking time bomb,” said the organisation’s Golden Miles Budhu.

Meanwhile, SA Policing Union’s Lesiba Thobakgale said all who were eligible must get immunised.

“When it comes to this vaccination process, every member should be vaccinated, whether they have a medical aid or not, in order to ensure that we reach the herd immunity,” said Thobakgale.

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