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Elderly prisoners to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination —Guevarra

Elderly prisoners will be vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of other detainees, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday.

Guevarra made the statement after Kapatid, an advocacy group for so-called “political prisoners,” appealed to the Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday to include all persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in the mass immunization program.

The DOH has not yet issued a statement on the matter.

“No mention of PDLs as a specific group has been made by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) in the general classification of persons for priority vaccination,” Guevarra, a member of the IATF, said.

“The priority list is subject to further sub-classification. So when we speak of senior citizens as a priority group, this will cut across a broad range of individuals, including those serving time or under detention, in their own internal order of preference.”

In the meantime, Guevarra said the PDLs should observe the minimum health protocols to reduce the risk of infection.

Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim earlier said the PDLs should not be denied access to the vaccine since they are “clearly not spared from the dangers posed by the contagious and deadly disease.”

“Subhuman conditions make prison facilities a reservoir of infectious disease. Ignoring them in the national efforts to contain COVID-19 will result in failure since prisons and the communities surrounding them are linked,” she said.

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

Last month, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said more than 122,000 inmates have been granted temporary liberty since March last year as part of the judiciary’s push to curb the spread of COVID-19 by decongesting jails.—LDF, GMA News