Patches are seen on the arm and shoulder of a corrections officer in the segregation unit at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Patches are seen on the arm and shoulder of a corrections officer in the segregation unit at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Prison guards need priority COVID-19 vaccinations, union says

Federal prison population varies but is typically about 14,000 people

A union representing federal prison guards says vaccinating them against COVID-19 should be a priority, given their front-line role in correctional institutions.

Members should be inoculated at their workplaces as quickly as possible, said Jeff Wilkins, national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

The call came Wednesday amid word from the union that the Correctional Service would begin vaccinating inmates this week.

In a statement late Wednesday, the Correctional Service said it expected to begin vaccinating “older, medically vulnerable federal inmates” Friday against COVID-19 as part of the first phase of the vaccine rollout, as recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

About 600 inmates will get doses of the recently approved Moderna vaccine from the prison service during the initial phase and, as further supply becomes available, it will eventually be offered to all federal inmates, the statement said.

Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the service has an obligation to provide essential health care to federally incarcerated inmates, it added.

The federal prison population varies but is typically about 14,000 people. The service reports that 1,149 federal inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, and three have died of it. The prison system had 144 inmates with active cases as of Jan. 4.

The prison service said its staff will be vaccinated by their home provinces or territories, adding it is working closely with those jurisdictions to ensure access to the vaccine in accordance with the priority groups identified by the committee on immunization.

The statement did not specifically mention correctional officers but noted the prison service “has health care workers who provide close, direct care to inmates diagnosed with COVID-19.”

“We are working closely with provinces to ensure vaccines are prioritized for these workers in the first phase.”

Earlier Wednesday, Conservative public safety critic Shannon Stubbs accused federal officials of putting the health of inmates ahead of that of prison guards.

She said in a statement it is “outrageous that incarcerated criminals will receive vaccines before vulnerable seniors in long-term care homes, front-line health care workers, first responders and correctional officers.”

About 225 of the union’s more than 7,400 members have tested positive for COVID-19, Wilkins said Wednesday in an interview.

The prison service must recognize that officers have been working for months in institutions where physical distancing is difficult, Wilkins said.

Although the Correctional Service has a legal mandate to provide care to inmates it also has a responsibility to protect staff members from disease under the Canadian Labour Code, he added.

“First off, we need to make sure that we have a workforce available to to go into those workplaces that are seeing some significant outbreaks right now.”

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Chemainus Health Care Centre residents have been vaccinated. (Photo by Don Bodger)
First vaccinations done at Chemainus Health Care Centre, Steeples

Relief to have the vulnerable population protected against COVID-19

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy requires emergency treatment three times after ingesting drugs

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

Danielle Groenendijk and Bo were on the run and having fun during the last month. (Photo submitted)
Putting your time to good use

Groenendijk goes the extra kilometre to raise funds for Parkinson’s

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Cartoonist Rob Kernachan.
Kernachan’s cartoon flashback 2008

Carbon footprint reference still pertinent today

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

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

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

Most Read