KUANTAN – Although behind bars, inmates at the Penor Prison here are grateful that they were not forgotten when the government launched the National COVID-19 Immunisation (PICK) programme.
One of them, identified as Tan, 30, said he already knew about the COVID-19 pandemic when he was brought to the prison last February and had wondered if he would also receive the vaccine when PICK was introduced being a prison inmate.
“During a telephone conversation with my parents, they asked me about the vaccination in prison. The next time I get to talk to them, I’ll tell them that I’m already vaccinated…I’m sure they will be relieved,” he told Bernama.
Tan, from Kuala Lumpur, is serving a two-year prison sentence for violating a police surveillance order, was met by Bernama after receiving his second dose of the Sinovac vaccine at the prison today.
As for Aizi, 29, from Felda Jengka, Maran, who is serving a five-year prison sentence since 2019 for a drug offence, said he took up the vaccination in prison because he was worried there would be no more free COVID-19 vaccination by the time he got his release.
“Although we are in prison, we are told on the importance and benefits of taking the vaccine. I know it is important for our own protection and have been waiting to be given the vaccine,” he said.
For Nanthan, 32, who is serving a six-year prison sentence for robbery since middle of last year, his concern was not being registered as a vaccine recipient on the MySejahtera app like other members of his family.
Penor Prison director Fayrouz Ahmad Zawawi said the prison had achieved the herd immunity with more than 90 per cent of the 1,823 inmates, including foreigners, having been vaccinated.
He said of the total, 408 inmates were given the CanSino vaccine, while the others were given the Sinovac vaccine with the first dose given on Sept 6 and 7.
The vaccination was conducted by 25 health workers under the supervision and assistance of prison staff at a workshop that was turned into a Penor Prison vaccination centre (PPV).
“Those who were vaccinated were also given the COVID-19 vaccination cards, but are kept by the prison and handed over to them upon their release,” he said, adding that those who completed serving their time before getting the second dose could get the second dose outside the prison.
Fayrouz said the vaccination programme at the prison, as well as other measures made by the prison authorities, helped to reduce the spread of the epidemic.
He said new inmates sent to the prison are required to stay at a transit centre for 14 days for observation purposes.
After they are confirmed negative, the inmates are again quarantined for six days in jail before being transferred to their respective residential blocks, he said, adding that since last Aug 1, the cumulative number of those in the prison who were confirmed positive was 269 people.
He said inmates confirmed positive with COVID-19 were sent to the COVID-19 Quarantine and Treatment Centre (PKRC) in Bentong Prison.
“We also took the initiative to measure the oxygen level of inmates using the Pulse Oximeter three times a day and those with low readings, will be rushed to hospital,” he said.
Apart from that, he said the prison staff would also conduct sanitation process in all cells on a daily basis to ensure safety of the inmates.