With the latest update regarding the news we have all been waiting for, the COVID-19 vaccine looks to be able to start circulation within the next month, with many in the ‘vulnerable’ category being vaccinated by Easter. Now, we as the public have been through the mill this year, empty promises and great hopes have filtered down from the powers that be since March, but this feels different… perhaps there is a tiny flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.

Understandably, everyone has their own opinions in regards to the vaccination. Some believing that corners have been cut, that testing isn’t up to scratch, and that perhaps the vaccine could cause more health issues long term, than the virus itself.

The government have stated that this vaccine will not be compulsory, but we will be actively encouraged to receive it, in order to gain some sort of normality back to our social, and economic lives. This blog is not intended to become a pro, or anti vax piece, but instead a discussion regarding who should be first in line.

Who could receive it first?

The official guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation states that the order of circulation will go as follows:

• Care home residents and those who work within care homes.
• Population over 80, and health and social care workers (NHS).
• Population 75and over.
• Population 70 and over.
• Population 65 and over.
• High risk adults under 65.
• Population 60 and over.
• Population 55 and over.
• Population 50 and over.
• Rest of the population.

In the current priority list there is no mention of where prison staff, and prisoners should come within the circulation of the vaccine.

Professor Seena Fazel has been looking at the spread of TB, Flu, and COVID-19 among prisoners, and believes that they should be further up the list. He feels that there should be a discussion among politicians regarding how to protect this vulnerable group of people.

Professor Fazel believes that prison staff should be in the same category as NHS workers, simply due to the mixture of vulnerable adults they are required to work closely with. He also believes that prisoners should be ahead of the general population in the queue, and should get the vaccination alongside the high-risk adults under 65.

Why do prisoners need protection?

General health and wellbeing is much lower in prison than throughout the rest of the population. The general health of the prisoners is quite often in a bad way due to previous drug, and alcohol abuse, and trauma, which has a major impact on mental health. There is also a great reluctance to be open about any symptoms they may be experiencing. A lot of prisoners have been on a very isolating regime since the very start of the pandemic, and many haven’t had visits from family since March, so the thought of risking that isolation becoming greater is sometimes not worth it in their opinion.

It’s important to take into consideration the living conditions too. Before the pandemic, our UK prisons had an issue with overcrowding, and only a small percentage have been released with the early release scheme, so this problem hasn’t gone away, overcrowding is still a problem in many UK prisons.

There is also an ageing population within our jails, so they are a vulnerable group, in overcrowded, often poorly ventilated, living conditions, who are suffering with lack of family contact.

Should they be further up the list? Or should they be vaccinated alongside the rest of the population? What are your thoughts? Let us know!

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