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

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada sits ready for use at The Michener Institute in Toronto on December 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Lake Babine Nation to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine to arrive within next two weeks for elders 65+

The first of two massive turbines headed from Prince Rupert for the Site C Dam near Fort St. John on Jan 10. (Photo: Supplied by Tasha McKenzie)
Massive turbines begin trek across Northwestern B.C.

Hydro-Electric turbines headed from Prince Rupert to Site C Dam week of Jan. 10 to 14

Zhùr, the ancient wolf pup found mummified in permafrost at Last Chance Creek mine in July 2016. (Government of Yukon/Submitted)
‘Mummy’ wolf pup unearthed in permafrost paints a picture of ice age ancestors

Zhùr is the best preserved and most complete mummy of an ancient wolf found to date.

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

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

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government announces creation of B.C.’s first anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Most Read