More than 2,000 inmates at prisons and correctional centres across the country have been vaccinated with their third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 38,000 detainees have already received two doses, according to General Department of Prisons spokesman Nouth Savna.

Savna told The Post on January 23 that the third dose, or booster shot, for inmates had been administered according to their needs and the availability of medical workers. The Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines were used as third shots.

“We do not yet require the third dose at any correctional centres or prisons in Phnom Penh. But when we find available medical workers who have time, we get detainees vaccinated,” he said.

He added that in some provinces, prisons officials had cooperated with a medical team known as “May 16” and the capital-provincial health departments to administer the booster doses.

“When it comes to vaccinations, we did not leave anyone behind, not even new inmates. We ask them if they have ever been inoculated against Covid-19, and if not, we administer it. We have vaccinated more than 1,000 new prisoners because they had never had a shot,” he said.

He noted that the government had authorised various jabs including Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac and Sinopharm for all inmates in prisons and correctional centres throughout the Kingdom.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said administering the booster dose to inmates was a useful mechanism to curb the Covid-19 pandemic in prisons.

“Administering booster doses alone is not enough however, because prisons are still overcrowded. We are worried about new variants entering prisons. A mechanism to reduce overcrowding in prisons is urgently needed, along with booster doses for inmates,” he added.

Sam Ath added that Licadho was aware that more than 10 prisons were infected with Covid-19. Relevant institutions should pay more attention to the living conditions of inmates to prevent and curb the pandemic, he said, adding that the courts should consider releasing some inmates on bail.

“The courts should consider releasing activists and union leaders who had been unreasonably detained. In addition, the courts should consider implementing the decision announced by the Ministry of Justice and parole prisoners who are about to end their sentences, with strict conditions,” he added.