NSW prison workers are struggling to get vaccinated against COVID-19, amid concerns jails could become super spreading sites.
While prison officers who received a vaccine when the national vaccination rollout moved into phase 1b, as part of an earlier vaccination scheme will get their second shot, other workers haven’t been so lucky.
Several officers, including those in regional centres like Dubbo and Bathurst, who missed out on the first round have received instructions to go their GP or a state vaccination centre, but with regional allocations of vaccine being redirected to deal with unfolding situation Greater Sydney, workers are struggling to find the jab.
President of the PSA, Nicole Jess, said there are obvious risks when unvaccinated people cohabitate in an environment that has an increased risk of super-spreading.
“Prison is up there with as a super spreading environment – once it gets in to the main population you’re in real trouble. But it is preventable – we need jabs in prisons now, it’s simple as that,” Ms Jess, who is also Chair of the Prison Officers Vocational Branch, said.
Ms Jess also added that the lockdown and social distancing measures, while successful in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 within the NSW prison system, also added to the urgency of vaccination to calm tensions among prisoners and staff.
“For 20 months prison officers have been working in tense jails, where people really are on a hair trigger. Now the government is thumbing its nose at their efforts, rather than delivering vaccinations to the workplace which would significantly reduce the stress and tension inside NSW’s jails,” she said.
“Prison officers want to be vaccinated, and for the stability of our corrections systems they need to be vaccinated, urgently… Effectively the government is telling them they’ve had their chance and now it’s on to them to sort it out.
“But it was the government’s changing advice that caused delays in the first place.”