By Nomalanga Makwelo
Members of Parliament have urged the government to prioritize inmates in the Covid 19 vaccination programme. Last week Cabinet approved the proposed general amnesty for inmates which was presented by the Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi in a bid to decongest prisons in the midst of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking in Parliament during a question and answer session in parliament last week , MDC T legislator Yvonne Musarurwa called on the government to put in place measures which would enable priorotisation of inmates in the Covid 19 vaccination programme , stating that the daily arrests being made by the police nation wide, placed inmates in a high risk of contracting Covid 19, thus calling for government to prioritize them as prisons would become hotspots.
Hon Musarurwa also questioned government ‘s logic of only availing the vaccine to prison officers only ,as she stated that prisoners also needed the vaccines as they were too many and overcrowded.
“Now that you have managed to secure the 700 vaccines for prison officers who are looking after prisoners,what measures have you put in place to ensure that the same prisoners are vaccinated ? Our prisons are overcrowded especially when they sleep and would want to turn to the other side so there is no longer any protection hence the request for vaccines”.
Sharing the same sentiments with Hon Musarurwa was also ,Mberengwa North legislator Hon Tafanana Zhou ,who further called for clarity on government’s position when it comes to vaccination being voluntary or mandatory to those who were incarcerated.
“These people who are going to be vaccinated are they going to voluntarily request for the vaccination or it is mandatory since they are prisoners ? “.
However responding to the MPs ,Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro indicated that government was working hard to ensure that inmates were prioritized,as large groups should.
“Their vaccination is ongoing and it is something that we know now that all the people who gather in large numbers like prisons should be vaccinated. So the programme is ongoing and they are also going to be part of the people who will be vaccinated right now as we go along”.
The Deputy Minister also stated that government was going to take advantage of the position that prisoners are in to vaccinate them ,so as to minimize the spread of virus.
“The idea is that we want to minimize the spread of virus as much as possible, so when such an opportunity has arisen, we need to act upon it and make sure that these people are protected and get their injections. So we will take advantage of any situation where people can be vaccinated because of the circumstances they find themselves in”.
He however stated that in a situation were prisoners refused to be vaccinated, government could try to educate them on importance of vaccination in order to protect themselves and others.