Wed | Oct 20, 2021

Vax drive for St James lock-ups delayed

Published:Tuesday | September 21, 2021 | 12:09 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Lennox Wallace, parish manager of the St James Health Department.
Lennox Wallace, parish manager of the St James Health Department.


The St James Health Department’s planned COVID-19 vaccination campaign for prisoners in the parish’s police lock-ups has been pushed back by a month to allow for completion of an ongoing education drive.

Lennox Wallace, the parish manager for the St James Health Department, told The Gleaner on Monday that the organisation’s health education unit has been going into the lock-ups to sensitise inmates on the vaccine.

“We had to do the community education part of the programme first, so it pushed us back a little bit, but we are fully prepared,” Wallace said.

The vaccination campaign for prisoners in St James was initially slated to start during the week of September 6 as an expansion of ongoing efforts to inoculate inmates against the coronavirus.

The programme had already been discussed with St James’ Police High Command and had found favour with the Cornwall Bar Association (CBA).

Reacting to news of the programme’s delay, attorney-at-law Michael Hemmings, the CBA president, said that the education of the inmates needs to be done quickly for the campaign to succeed.

“The delay is regretted, but whatever needs to be done to educate the prisoners on the benefits of taking the vaccine should be done expeditiously. A clear timeline [for the vaccination campaign] is to be indicated and stuck to,” said Hemmings.

The vaccination drive was first announced shortly after the parish courts in St James and Westmoreland were ordered closed on August 9 following outbreaks of COVID-19 among staff.

The announcement also came seven months after inmates at the Freeport Police Station lock-up in Montego Bay were placed under quarantine on January 9, following a COVID-19 scare at the facility.

There have been concerns about the potential impact of a coronavirus outbreak among prisoners across the island.

Human-rights group Stand Up for Jamaica has called for the release of low-risk prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences to reduce the inmate population in the largely overcrowded facilities.