Canadians are twice as likely to be fully vaccinated if they live in federal prison, data shows, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
On January 6, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said: “There are people in our federal institutions who are elderly, have pre-existing health conditions and other conditions that make them far more vulnerable.”
“That’s why we’ve prioritized them.” Other Canadians would “simply wait their turn as every other Canadian must wait.”
The most recent July data shows full vaccine coverage in federal penitentiaries exceeded rates in the general population in every province where the Correctional Service operates. The blanket coverage did not include prison guards. “Staff are vaccinated by their home province,” Prison Commissioner Anne Kelly said in an earlier statement.
69 percent of federal prisoners nationwide were fully vaccinated. The rate in the general population is nearly half that at 36 percent, according to the Department of Health.
Only six inmates have died from COVID-19 during the pandemic.
“Frankly, the language of resentment and fear really has no place in this discussion,” said Blair, who spoke to the duty of Canadians to care for those who are in custody, and to ensure they are treated fairly and kept safe.
“In a prison, socially distancing can be challenging,” he added, stating, the need for vaccinations has to be based on the “advice of our public health authorities.”
Rates of full vaccination are as low as 21 percent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and 23 percent of Prince Edward Islanders. Neither province is home to a federal prison. In other provinces with Correctional Service penitentiaries:
- 66% of Nova Scotia inmates are fully vaccinated compared to 28% of the general population;
- 67% of Ontario inmates compared to 38% overall in the province;
- 68% of Manitoba inmates compared to 42% overall;
- 68% of Alberta inmates compared to 40% overall;
- 68% of British Columbia inmates compared to 33% overall;
- 70% of Saskatchewan inmates compared to 42% overall;
- 71% of Québec inmates compared to 33% overall;
- 75% of New Brunswick inmates compared to 35% overall.
Health Minister Patricia Hajdu earlier defended the cabinet’s decision of “protecting” a portion of vaccines for targeted groups. “There’s a federal role to play in protecting a certain amount of product, whether we’re talking about vaccines or personal protective equipment, for federal populations that we’re responsible for,” said Hajdu.
Opposition MPs questioned the program, with Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs calling the decision “outrageous.” In an earlier statement, she said: “Criminals should not “receive vaccines before vulnerable seniors in long term care homes, front line health care workers, first responders and correctional officers.”