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 Nisga’a Lisims Government has extended its state of local emergency. (File photo)
Nisga’a state of local emergency extended, vaccines delayed

There are 21 active COVID-19 cases in the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Terrace continues to have a high rate of COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people, according to this map which shows data from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9. (BC Centre for Disease Control)
Terrace, Nisga’a regions continue to have high rate of COVID-19 cases

Two more exposure notices posted for Terrace schools

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read