Prisoners in England should start being offered coronavirus vaccines from today, the prisons minister has told Sky News.
“The vaccination rollout in prisons has commenced in Wales and should be commencing today in England,” Lucy Frazer said.
She stressed that people in prison would not be given COVID-19 jabs “over and above or in any sort of priority against those in the community”.
“People in prison will be vaccinated in line with the community as they should be,” Ms Frazer continued.
“So those who are eligible to be vaccinated in line with the priorities set out by the vaccination committee, the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation], will be vaccinated as they would be vaccinated if they were living in the community.”
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said last week that the spread of coronavirus in prisons across England and Wales was a “public health emergency unfolding before our eyes”.
He said it was vital ministers “act urgently” to prevent the virus from spreading further in jails – or risk preventable deaths.
A total of 4,800 prisoners have contracted the virus and at least 71 inmates have died since the start of the pandemic.
According to the Ministry of Justice, there were 2,400 positive cases recorded in December, a rise of nearly 70% in a single month.
A Prison Service spokesperson told Sky News earlier this month: “Mass testing, shielding and reduced contact mean infections are significantly lower than predicted at the start of the pandemic.”
More than half of the 117 prisons across the nation have been impacted by the pandemic.
The head of the body representing prison governors said “to avoid further outbreaks” the government should consider putting prisoners and prison staff high on the list for vaccinations.
Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governors Association, said: “If more people die and we have more outbreaks, and we are releasing people worse than when they came in, then the solution is vaccinating.”