Watchdog: Prisoners passed over in vaccine rollouts globally

Prisoners around the world have been largely forgotten by governments, as they scramble to vaccinate at-risk groups against COVID-19, a watchdog said in a report out Thursday.

“Lack of clarity about vaccination plans, policies, and treatment of incarcerated populations is… a pressing, global concern,” the report by Amnesty International read.

The 57-page survey, “Forgotten Behind Bars,” reviewed responses by 69 governments to the virus penetrating detention facilities. It concluded that the measures have often been inadequate and sometimes led to rights violations.

The rights advocacy group said that while at least 71 countries have now put in place a vaccination policy for at least one clinically vulnerable group behind bars, many others, including high-income countries, remained either silent or unclear on their plans about vaccinating inmates.

“Prisons are some of the most at-risk settings for COVID-19 outbreaks and we cannot neglect the right to health of people in prisons any longer,” Amnesty’s Research and Advocacy Director Netsanet Belay said.

More than 11 million inmates globally remain confined in cramped spaces, with limited access to proper sanitation, personal protective gear and health care, making prisons a likely hotbed for the disease. With prison populations becoming older, the risk of adverse effects and deaths is also growing.

The report cited findings of the national commission on COVID-19 in the US, which has the world’s largest prison population. It estimated the mortality rate in American prisons last August to be twice as high as that for the general public.


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