The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons (GDP), in coordination with health departments nationwide, are now offering a fifth dose of Covid-19 vaccines to inmates in prisons and correctional centres across the country, according GDP spokesman Nuth Savna.

Savna said that many of the Kingdom’s 38,000 prisoners had received their second, third and fourth doses, and added that the majority have been vaccinated against Covid-19, although a small portion have not received the jab due to health reasons.

“Almost all prison officials have been vaccinated … We keep careful records of each prisoner to determine when it is time for their next jab, and arrange times for each of them to get vaccinated, and the provincial health departments coordinate the process,” he said.

He added that new prisoners’ vaccination statuses are checked upon entry, and that the pertinent data is added into the system.

“When it is time for them to get vaccinated, [we] prepare them as a group for health workers to administer the inoculations,” Savna said.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, said offering the fifth dose to inmates is an effective way to prevent and curb the spread of Covid-19 in prisons, but warned that overcrowding could undermine the GDP’s vaccination efforts.

“We are worried that new variants may spread into prisons. Solving the overcrowding problem may be more necessary than merely offering booster shots to inmates,” he added.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine, who doubles as the head of the national Covid-19 vaccination committee, called on everyone to get their third, fourth and fifth boosters, especially frontline workers, the over 60s, and other target groups.

“Please pay close attention to the Covid-19 restriction measures. Never play down or forget about them. Although we have recorded no new deaths or infections for more than a month, the pandemic is not over yet,” she said.

Savna said the GDP employs 2,975 prison officials across 24 prisons and four correctional centres. The prison system holds 38,000 inmates, 54 per cent of whom were incarcerated for drug-related crimes.