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Elderly inmates included in vaccine priority list

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced on Wednesday, March 3, that elderly persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) are part of the vaccination priority list under the senior citizen category.

Guevarra, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), said PDLs aged 60 and above will be inoculated.

“But within the class of senior citizens, I have no information on how PDLs above 60 years of age will figure in the order of preference,” said Guevarra in a text message. “The IATF will have to consider all relevant factors. As I said, we are not there yet.”

Under the vaccine priority list, senior citizens follow the medical frontliners as the top priority. The government did not include inmates in the initial list.

“In any event, while waiting for their turn to get vaccinated like the rest of the population, these PDLs will just have to follow minimum health protocols to reduce the risk of viral transmission,” he said.

Guevarra also explained the that the vaccines intended for PDLs will be brought to their detention facilities or prison farms, and will be administered in vaccine tents.

Death trap

This comes a day after human rights group Karapatan, through a letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, reminded government not to forget inmates in congested prisons when drafting vaccination plans.

“With an unenviable record of having the highest jail congestion rate in the world, Philippine prisons are a death trap,” said Karapatan spokesperson Fides Lim.

According to Karapatan, even before COVID-19 pandemic, 5,200 PDLs die every year in the New Bilibid Prison, while 300 to 800 die in Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facilities. 

In the 2021 budget proposal of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, there was no money allotted for new facilities that could solve the perennial problem of jail congestion. - Rappler.com