Minister Lamola receives his jab as COVID-19 vaccination drive gathers momentum in Correctional Services

ServicesMAIN

Throngs of Correctional Officials and inmates appear to have shrugged off unfounded myths about vaccines, choosing instead to put their trust in medical science on the safety of vaccines. Minister Ronald Lamola and acting Chief Operations Commissioner, Phiko Mbambo led by example when they received the one dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine during the official launch of the vaccination rollout programme at Johannesburg Management Area on 20 July 2021. Lamola was accompanied by the Acting Minister of Health, Mmamoloko Kubayi, who had come to show support and to encourage officials and inmates to seize the opportunity to get vaccinated.

Lamola commended officials for discharging their duties with diligence and said this has cushioned the impact of COVID-19 on operations. “Your commitment and dedication continue to inspire us, rest assured that the services you render to the people of South Africa, are of paramount importance. The manner in which COVID-19 has been contained in our facilities is not a miracle, it is due to the hard work of the men and women in brown,” he said.

On the treatment of inmates, Lamola indicated that Correctional Services is enjoined by Section 35(2) of the Constitution, which stipulate that:

Everyone who is detained, including every sentenced prisoner, has the right to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity, including at least exercise and the provision, at state expense, of adequate accommodation, nutrition, reading material and medical treatment.”

He explained that it is against this background that the vaccination rollout programme must also cater for inmates in the custody of the Department. “A policy position which excludes the vaccination of inmates in our custody could be opposed on human rights grounds, particularly given that the government has a duty of care to people in custody,” he said. All the inmates will receive the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

He said the vaccination of officials and inmates is intended to mitigate against the real risk of large scale outbreaks due to the congregate nature of the corrections environment. He said this risk has a potential spillover effect into the broader society as a result of interactions between correctional officials and communities, court visits, hospital admissions, and the admission and release of inmates. “We are obliged to provide vaccinations for correctional officials and inmates to prevent outbreaks, and to ensure that the basic rights of inmates, officials and the wider community are protected,” Lamola asserted.

Minister Lamola announced that as at the date of the launch, 1 325 Health Care professionals, 1 899 Correctional Officials and 61 educators had been vaccination in DCS. A total of 2 569 inmates had been vaccinated across the country. The Minister reiterated that the health and safety of officials, inmates and the public remains a top priority during this pandemic. “We understand vaccine anxiety, but we appeal to all of South Africans to be vaccinated, this will protect lives. 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,” he said.

Minister Kubayi said the launch of the vaccination rollout in DCS marks a significant milestone towards realising a marked increment in the number of vaccinations administered per day in the country. She reported that over 200 000 vaccines had been administered across the country, on 19 July 2021. “This launch further affirms government’s commitment to ensure that every eligible person has access to vaccine, irrespective of where they are,” she said. She indicated many people were initially sceptical about the vaccine rollout, which resulted in some people being hesitant to take the vaccine.

Kubayi mentioned that the Department of Health is on a drive to educate the people about vaccines, and to debunk unsubstantiated myths about the safety of vaccines. “It is important to understand that the vaccine does not prevent you from contracting COVID-19, but it protects you from severe illnesses and potential death,” she emphasized. She beseeched the DCS community and broader society to continue to observe non-pharmaceutical measures such as wearing of masks, physical distancing, and active screening. She indicated that government is worried about a potential upsurge in COVID-19 cases due to the recent protests in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and called on people who participated in the protests to present themselves to a health facility for screening because of the likelihood that they are potential carriers of the virus.

Taryn Fao (39) and Rodney Maswanganyi (30) were amongst a group of inmates who were vaccinated on the day. They indicated that despite the initial fears and misinformation about vaccines, the overriding sentiment among the inmates is that of relief and gratitude, that the Government has included them as part of the rollout programme.

Throngs of Correctional Officials and inmates appear to have shrugged off unfounded myths about vaccines, choosing instead to put their trust in medical science on the safety of vaccines. Minister Ronald Lamola and acting Chief Operations Commissioner, Phiko Mbambo led by example when they received the one dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine during the official launch of the vaccination rollout programme at Johannesburg Management Area on 20 July 2021. Lamola was accompanied by the Acting Minister of Health, Mmamoloko Kubayi, who had come to show support and to encourage officials and inmates to seize the opportunity to get vaccinated.

Lamola commended officials for discharging their duties with diligence and said this has cushioned the impact of COVID-19 on operations. “Your commitment and dedication continue to inspire us, rest assured that the services you render to the people of South Africa, are of paramount importance. The manner in which COVID-19 has been contained in our facilities is not a miracle, it is due to the hard work of the men and women in brown,” he said.

ServicesONE

On the treatment of inmates, Lamola indicated that Correctional Services is enjoined by Section 35(2) of the Constitution, which stipulate that:

Everyone who is detained, including every sentenced prisoner, has the right to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity, including at least exercise and the provision, at state expense, of adequate accommodation, nutrition, reading material and medical treatment.”

He explained that it is against this background that the vaccination rollout programme must also cater for inmates in the custody of the Department. “A policy position which excludes the vaccination of inmates in our custody could be opposed on human rights grounds, particularly given that the government has a duty of care to people in custody,” he said. All the inmates will receive the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

He said the vaccination of officials and inmates is intended to mitigate against the real risk of large scale outbreaks due to the congregate nature of the corrections environment. He said this risk has a potential spillover effect into the broader society as a result of interactions between correctional officials and communities, court visits, hospital admissions, and the admission and release of inmates. “We are obliged to provide vaccinations for correctional officials and inmates to prevent outbreaks, and to ensure that the basic rights of inmates, officials and the wider community are protected,” Lamola asserted.

Minister Lamola announced that as at the date of the launch, 1 325 Health Care professionals, 1 899 Correctional Officials and 61 educators had been vaccination in DCS. A total of 2 569 inmates had been vaccinated across the country. The Minister reiterated that the health and safety of officials, inmates and the public remains a top priority during this pandemic. “We understand vaccine anxiety, but we appeal to all of South Africans to be vaccinated, this will protect lives. 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,” he said.

Minister Kubayi said the launch of the vaccination rollout in DCS marks a significant milestone towards realising a marked increment in the number of vaccinations administered per day in the country. She reported that over 200 000 vaccines had been administered across the country, on 19 July 2021. “This launch further affirms government’s commitment to ensure that every eligible person has access to vaccine, irrespective of where they are,” she said. She indicated many people were initially sceptical about the vaccine rollout, which resulted in some people being hesitant to take the vaccine.

Kubayi mentioned that the Department of Health is on a drive to educate the people about vaccines, and to debunk unsubstantiated myths about the safety of vaccines. “It is important to understand that the vaccine does not prevent you from contracting COVID-19, but it protects you from severe illnesses and potential death,” she emphasized. She beseeched the DCS community and broader society to continue to observe non-pharmaceutical measures such as wearing of masks, physical distancing, and active screening. She indicated that government is worried about a potential upsurge in COVID-19 cases due to the recent protests in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and called on people who participated in the protests to present themselves to a health facility for screening because of the likelihood that they are potential carriers of the virus.

Taryn Fao (39) and Rodney Maswanganyi (30) were amongst a group of inmates who were vaccinated on the day. They indicated that despite the initial fears and misinformation about vaccines, the overriding sentiment among the inmates is that of relief and gratitude, that the Government has included them as part of the rollout programme.

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