Australia: Ensure the accessibility of Covid-19 vaccines to prisoners- HRW

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The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) should urgently ensure that prisoners have access to Covid-19 vaccines, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.

The Covid-19 Delta strain has spread inside NSW prisons. State authorities told Human Rights Watch that as of August 27, 2021, only 21 percent of prisoners in the state’s government-run adult facilities were fully vaccinated, with 42 percent having received at least one dose. The general population’s vaccination rates for NSW was 35 percent fully vaccinated, while 65 percent had received at least one dose.

“The New South Wales government has failed to prevent vaccination rates for prisoners from lagging well behind the general population even though prisoners are at a far greater risk of contracting Covid-19,” said Sophie McNeill, Australia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Australian authorities should have learned the lessons from other countries where Covid-19 has spread quickly inside prisons with devastating results.”

Prisoners globally are typically at heightened risk of Covid-19 due to close proximity, poor ventilation, inability to practice “social distancing,” difficulties in providing adequate sanitation and hygiene, a higher rate of underlying medical conditions than the general population, and inadequate health care. A study in the United States showed that prisoners are three times as likely to die from Covid-19 as members of the general population.

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