PRISONERS at the Guantanamo Bay detention center can now begin getting the COVID-19 vaccine, a senior defence official told The Associated Press on Monday, months after a plan to inoculate them was scuttled over outrage that many Americans weren’t eligible to receive the shots.
The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a United States military prison located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. The camp was established by US President George W. Bush’s administration in 2002 during the War on Terror following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The new timing coincides with President Joe Biden’s deadline for states to make all adults in the U.S. eligible for coronavirus vaccines. Beginning Monday, anyone 16 and older in the country qualifies to sign up and get in a virtual line to be vaccinated.
The defense official said all 40 men held at the Navy base in Cuba will be offered the vaccination to comply with legal requirements regarding the treatment of prisoners and to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Strict quarantine procedures had already sharply curtailed activities at the base and halted legal proceedings for prisoners facing war crime trials, including the men charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.
“Obviously, we don’t want an outbreak of COVID on a remote island with the challenges that would present,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the effort ahead of an official announcement.
The announcement in January that the military intended to offer the vaccine to prisoners sparked intense criticism, particularly among Republicans in Congress, at a time when COVID-19 vaccines were just being rolled out to troops and civilians at Guantanamo and were not widely available in the United States.