People are getting upset at the government’s decision to vaccinate prisoners before ordinary citizens when vaccines become available.
Community safety standing committee chairperson in the Western Cape Legislature Reagan Allen said it was not a good idea to vaccinate prisoners before ordinary citizens.
“I acknowledge that correctional centres may be prime sites of the spread of the pandemic, on account of confinement and overcrowding.
“This brings the issue back to the unsanitary and unsafe conditions in our prisons, which are not recent, nor a result of the virus.”
Allen said the conditions were the results of years of neglect and failure to upgrade prisons in line with the increasing inmate population, reports the Cape Argus.
“On the Cape Flats, and in some informal settlements around the country, there are hard-working members of the public who are similarly at risk, and those South Africans deserve access to the vaccine,” he said.
Prisoners are among the high risk groups that will get vaccinated in phase two of the government’s vaccine roll-out, which include teachers, police and old age home residents.
SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights president Golden Miles Bhudu said experts, including the World Health Organization, said the reason why prisoners should be prioritised was that when they contract Covid-19, they can easily and immediately transmit the disease to their fellow bandiete, prison staff and healthcare workers who treat them.
“Even though evidence has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that in the South African prisons, the scenario is [vice] versa, meaning it is the prison staff that infect prisoners and their colleagues,” Bhudu said.
Head of the Department of Health in the Western Cape Dr. Keith Cloete said it is clear that there is a need for further public engagement on the subject.
“The vulnerable we can all understand – the elderly over 70, people with comorbidities. It’s this other group, people in high-risk settings, (which forces us to ask) what is the criteria, and how do we have a public debate, and what is the ethics around it?”