REGINA -- Saskatchewan jails have been COVID-19 hotspots, but the government says inmates and those who work there will not be next in line for vaccines.

“We haven’t developed a specific plan for them, but it would also be by age categories,” Minister of Health Paul Merriman said. 

A Saskatchewan Health Authority report obtained by SGEU, the union that represents corrections workers, put correctional centres ahead of nursing homes for the spread of COVID-19 during a recent survey period, accounting for 10 per cent of all cases in the province. 

The report recommended correctional centres be included in the next phase of vaccine rollout along with seniors, northern residents over 40, emergency shelters and group home residents. 

“I absolutely think is absurd. The government has corrections officers and people working in young offenders facilities. They are essential workers. They have no choice. They have to show up for work every day,” said SGEU spokesperson Barry Nowoselsky. 

The John Howard Society said it sees merit in vaccinating those who work in jails. 

“If they weren’t going to vaccinate inmates with degree of some priority, that they instead vaccinate prisons guards, corrections officers, prison staff so that most of the in and out of the correctional facility on a daily basis were vaccinated,” said Pierre Hawkins, public legal counsel for the John Howard Society. 

On Tuesday, the government said Phase 2 of vaccine delivery will include a targeted vaccination campaign for adults and staff in group homes and shelters. This phase will also target “clinically extremely vulnerable adults,” which includes people who are undergoing certain cancer treatments, people with severe respiratory conditions, and those with a variety of other ailments.