News that convicted prisoners may be amongst the first group of people to receive Covid-19 vaccinations has been met with “alarm” by the Democratic Alliance (DA), says MP James Selfe, DA Shadow Minister of Correctional Services.
“We trust that this proposal will not be accepted or implemented,” said Selfe in a press statement on Tuesday. “It is acknowledged that prisons may be prime sites of the spread of the pandemic, on account of confinement and overcrowding. As such, custodial officials must be classified as front-line workers and qualify for vaccination, as and when this becomes available. Their job is dangerous enough: the least the State must do is to help to protect them from infection.
“But this does not mean that prisoners can jump the queue. A person who is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment loses certain rights, and that includes the right to priority access to Covid vaccination. Nor does it seem, up until now, that there has been a higher than average infection or mortality rate in correctional centres.
“There are literally millions of hard-working, tax-paying members of the public who are similarly at risk, and those South Africans deserve access to the vaccination before it is provided to prisoners,” said Selfe.