- The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice has called for prison guards and inmates to be among the first to be vaccinated.
- The commission recommended they be vaccinated right after healthcare workers.
- Other organisations like the American Medical Association have also called for prisons to be a priority in the vaccine rollout, especially as cases among inmates continue to rise.
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The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice has called for prison guards and inmates to be among the first to receive vaccines against the virus.
In a report published on Monday, the commission, whose goal is to develop strategies to address the way COVID-19 has impacted the criminal justice system and includes panelists like former US Attorneys General Loretta Lynch and Albert Gonzales said prisoners correctional staff be vaccinated next, after healthcare workers.
The commission also called for more prisoners to be released during the pandemic as cases in prisons soar. They found the high density of people in jails and prisons and lack of preparedness to handle the pandemic led to a failure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in those areas.
States have been working to create vaccine rollout plans and figure out which demographics should be prioritised after one COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech was recently granted emergency authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The Los Angeles Times reported in California around 26,000 inmates or one-in-four prisoners have already been infected with COVID-19. Also, 12.7% of prison inmates across the country have confirmed COVID-19 cases.
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The New York Times reported earlier this month, that while cases were spreading in prisons, federal authorities working to determine who is most in need of a vaccine did not rank prison inmates high on the priority, but a Centres for Disease Control and Preventions advisory committee did place priority for correctional officers.
The American Medical Association has also called for inmates and those who work in prisons or correctional facilities to be prioritised in the vaccine rollout since jails and prisons cannot adequately implement measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We aren’t saying that prisoners should be treated any better than anybody else, but they shouldn’t be treated any worse than anybody else who is forced to live in a congregate setting,” Dr. Eric Toner, co-author of a report on vaccine allocation published by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security told The Times.
The newspaper said that while there may be a hesitancy to prioritise those who are incarcerated, there’s an obligation to protect the health of those in prison as well as a public health responsibility given that an outbreak that starts in a prison can spread to the general community.
“Prisons are incubators of infectious disease,” Toner told the Times.