Hamilton correctional officers got COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, now have to wait
The Barton Jail is the site of Hamilton's largest active outbreak with 73 confirmed COVID-19 cases
Hamilton Public Health Services says some correctional officers at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre mistakenly received the COVID-19 vaccine last week. And the union representing those workers says they're furious after being turned away at clinics without any notice from public health.
Geoff Vanderdeen, president of OPSEU Local 248, said after asking public health about if correctional officers were eligible for the vaccine, they were told to sign in to the health-care worker registration portal to book appointments.
"We explained exactly who we were, exactly what we do ... we were very clear, because we weren't sure [if we were eligible]," he said Tuesday.
"We've been pushing for vaccines for the staff since late last year."
The confusion around who is eligible for vaccination comes as the city and the province race to immunize people before a third wave of COVID-19 peaks.
The Barton Jail is also the site of Hamilton's largest active outbreak with 73 confirmed COVID-19 cases (53 inmates and 20 staff).
James Berry, a city spokesperson, says correctional officers mistakenly received vaccination appointments, and then the vaccine, after using the portal. It's unclear how many correctional officers got the vaccine.
"This error was detected through Hamilton Public Health Services' regular review of those who are booking through the portal as it was counter to sequencing within the Province's Prioritization Framework," Berry wrote in an email on Tuesday.
Vanderdeen said workers showing up for a vaccine on Saturday began to be turned away after waiting for hours.
Those who were able to convince workers at the clinics to get their shots ended up getting vaccinated, Vanderdeen says.
"My members are exasperated, they're very mad and not understanding [why they were turned away] ... staff, to this day, are still registering, given appointments and turned away at the doors," he said Tuesday.
Berry said all correctional officers will be eligible during the second phase of the Province's Prioritization Framework.
But Vanderdeen said correctional officers do the same kind of work as police officers and other first responders who are getting vaccinated now.
Jackie Penman, a Hamilton Police Services spokesperson, said vaccinations for police officers started last Tuesday and are expected to be complete on Thursday with roughly 400 members getting the vaccine.
But that only includes members who provide direct, health-care services — like officers and special constables responding to calls requiring CPR or naloxone, or members responding to triaged medical emergency calls with an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.
"We are first responders to an inmate that is in medical distress ... public health has deemed we're just not as important, and that infuriates the staff," Vanderdeen said.
"I'd like an apology."
He added public health should have reached out to correctional officers to tell them they would have to wait.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General said on Tuesday it is working with local public health to "determine further details regarding vaccinating staff and inmates in provincial correctional facilities."