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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C

Debunked: No, the army hasn't been drafted in to 'forcibly' vaccinate prisoners

Vaccines are being rolled out on a prison-by-prison basis and jabs are administered by National Ambulance Service staff.

POSTS CIRCULATING ON social media in recent weeks have claimed that the Irish Defence Forces have been sent into prisons to ‘force’ inmates to get Covid-19 vaccines. 

One such post purports to share a message from the partner of a prison officer, with the accompanying text stating that the army is “being drafted into prisons and prisoners are being forcibly vaccinated”. 

The message claiming to come from a prison officer’s partner states that the army is due to go into a prison the following day and if prisoners refuse a vaccine “pressure will be applied on them until they accept”. 

It also claims that prisoners are concerned that they will “lose privileges and be confined to their cell 24/7 if they do not get it”. 

While a small cohort of inmates in prisons had received vaccines already because they were eligible in earlier stages of the vaccination programme, a wider roll-out did not start until last week.

Inmates and prison staff at Wheatfield and Portlaoise prisons were the first to receive their jabs in this wider roll-out. Rather than vaccinating prisoners based on the eligible age cohorts in the community, the HSE is now working through each individual prison, vaccinating all prisoners and staff at the same time. 

All inmates and staff will receive an mRNA vaccine. 

When asked about the claims circulating on social media, the Irish Prison Service said the vaccinations are being administered by the National Ambulance Service, supported by Irish Prison Service healthcare teams. 

The Prison Service also confirmed that, in line with the community, all prisoners retain the right to accept or decline to receive a vaccine and they do not face losing privileges within the prison or being confined to their cells 24/7 if they refuse a vaccine.

The Irish Defence Forces also confirmed that members “have not administered any Covid-19 vaccines to prisoners in any Irish prison and we have no involvement in the rollout of vaccines to Irish prisons”.

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