At-risk inmates at Stony Mountain Institution given COVID-19 vaccine, correctional officers left waiting
WINNIPEG -- Approximately 10 inmates of the Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba have been given the COVID-19 vaccine, though the frontline correctional officers who work with them have been left waiting.
Stony Mountain Institution, which is Manitoba's only federal prison, was included in Canada's first phase of the vaccine rollout in federal institutions. Starting in early January, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) delivered doses of the Moderna Vaccine to 600 inmates across the country.
A federal spokesperson told CTV News the inmates were prioritized by age and underlying medical conditions, based on guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
Stony Mountain Institution is one of four federal institutions in the prairie region to have received the vaccine.
James Bloomfield, the prairies regional president for Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, told CTV News that 10 inmates were identified as being the highest-risk of COVID-19. He said they had recently been given the doses.
While the vaccination of inmates falls under the responsibility of the federal government, the vaccination of staff in federal prisons – including the correctional officers – has been left to the individual provinces.
Bloomfield said in Manitoba, correctional officers have been left waiting.
"They've left out the frontline portion of corrections, which is the correctional officers in this. We are within these facilities every day, working frontline every day and working 24-7 with positive cases all over the place," Bloomfield told CTV News.
"We've had some of the biggest outbreaks in this country in the federal corrections facilities and those are not being prioritized in the way that we feel they should be."
Stony Mountain Institution had some of the highest COVID-19 cases in a Canadian federal prison in early January, when approximately half of the inmates had tested positive. An inmate at Stony Mountain died in late December after receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis.
As of Thursday, there were no active cases within the prison, according to the CSC.
A provincial spokesperson from Manitoba's COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Task Force told CTV News health-care workers within federal institutions are currently eligible for the vaccine and can book an appointment – however, correctional officers are not included in this round of eligibility.
When asked when correctional officers in Manitoba will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the spokesperson said, "Essential workers may be added as additional vaccine products are approved for use in Canada."
Bloomfield said the vaccine rollout in personal care homes included residents and the workers who provided direct care to them. He said the same approach should be taken within Stony Mountain.
"When an inmate should receive their vaccination is not my call," he said. "It's just that if our government is going to do this with the inmates, then obviously they need to really prioritize the frontline staff that work with them as well."
A spokesperson for CSC told CTV News the future rollout of the vaccine in federal prisons would be determined in consultation with the NACI guidelines.