Distrust among inmates over vaccination process
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Cape Town - While the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) announced that it is ready to begin vaccinating prison inmates last week, some inmates are concerned about being victimised during the process.
In order to minimise the danger of high-risk exposure to prisoners, DCS aims to vaccinate more than 800 inmates per day. However, some feel that they should have been consulted first, and a proper introduction to the programme should have been conveyed.
An inmate at one of the holding facilities said that inmates don’t trust the effectiveness of the vaccines seeing that it doesn’t guarantee 100% immunity from the virus.
“There is no guarantee that if you take the jab, you will never be infected. That’s why I don't trust it at all. It killed many people in a row just after taking it.”
“Other inmates also feel that there was unfair treatment on the part of the department when the Covid-19 remission was issued, and now we are left to take the jab that is causing a stir in the country with all the controversy surrounding the vaccine,” said the inmate.
National spokesperson of the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights Golden Miles Bhudu said that DCS should have first informed prisoners about the scientific and medical dis/advantages of vaccination before proceeding.
“Secondly, DCS is supposed to make inmates understand that taking the vaccine does not make them guinea pigs due to the untrustworthy relationship between prisoners and the warders in the establishment. Thirdly, there should have been, or there should be a monitoring and evaluation mechanism in place that will medically and immediately intervene when those that had taken the jab show signs and symptoms of side-effects,” said Bhudu.
DCS spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said there are fears and resistance among inmates. He added that forcing someone to be vaccinated is a violation of the Constitution that cannot be breached, hence, inmates are encouraged to participate in taking the vaccine in order to protect themselves.
“The vaccines are administered with the assistance of the Department of Health, and all the protocols that apply to monitoring side-effects are applicable to inmates.”
“Like Minister Ronald Lamola said, the World Health Organization (WHO) observes that, compared to the wider community, people living in prisons have a disproportionately higher burden of comorbidities, including non-communicable diseases, which increase their chances of suffering severe outcomes from Covid-19. WHO calls on leaders to address health inequalities and ensure that everyone has access to quality health services when and where they need them, adding that this issue is especially relevant for detention facilities.
“Hence, it is against this background that we are rolling out the vaccination programme in Correctional Services. Vaccinations are a bulwark against the rapid spread of Covid-19. We are obliged to provide vaccinations for correctional officers and inmates to prevent outbreaks, and ensure the basic rights of inmates, officials and the wider community are protected,” said Phiri.