Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Johannesburg: Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola has appealed to both officials and inmates to get vaccinated as government rolls out the COVID-19 vaccination programme at the country’s correctional facilities.

“Vaccine scepticism continues to permeate across some sections of society. We therefore encourage both officials and inmates to empower themselves with the correct scientific information on vaccines,” Lamola said on Tuesday.

The National Department of Health has provided the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the department to vaccinate inmates.

“Some of our inmate population has been vaccinated under the 50 plus bracket. We will target to reach all inmates, irrespective of their age. Many DCS employees have already received their first dose of vaccine across both public and private vaccination sites in the country,” the Minister said.

As of 15 July, DCS employees, irrespective of age, can access any vaccination site without having to undertake self-registration on the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS).

To date, 1 325 health care professionals in Correctional Services, 1 899 correctional officials and 61 educators at correctional facilities have received vaccinations.

The Minister said 1509 inmates who fall in the 50 -59 age bracket have been vaccinated.

“Yesterday when we kick-started our vaccination programme targeting all inmates a total of 2 569 inmates across the country were vaccinated,” the Minister said.

At the start of the year, the Health Department unveiled its plan to vaccinate 40 million South Africans as part of a three-phase rollout.

According to this plan, 67% of the population will need to be vaccinated in order to achieve population immunity. This is approximately just over 40 million South Africans.

“Of the 40 million South Africans we need to vaccinate to reach population immunity, 140 319 constitute inmates. This translates to 0.34%,” the Minister said.

He said correctional centres are generally overcrowded and as result, non-pharmaceutical interventions have their limitations, and people in correctional centres have contact with a large staff pool.

“Large, explosive outbreaks in crowded institutional settings remain a major ongoing risk not only for our centres, but for society at large. Thus far, this pandemic has affected correctional centres’ ability to function.

“It has heightened the risking of infections seeping outside of Correctional Centres through interactions between correctional officials and communities, court visits, hospital admissions, and the admission and release of inmates,” Lamola said.

Government is obliged to provide vaccinations for correctional officials and inmates to prevent outbreaks, and ensure the basic rights of inmates, officials and the wider community are protected.

“The health and safety of our inmates, officials and the public have been our top priority during this pandemic.

“Vaccines are the best defence to protect both offenders and officials against COVID-19 and when paired with existing measures, this will help to bolster our overall public health and safety.

“DCS will continue to work closely with the National Department of Health on its vaccinations plans and rollout.” the Minister said.