Criminals could be vaccinated against coronavirus before most of the population under plans to treat prisons like care homes.
Vaccination teams would be sent to jails to give jabs to inmates and staff en masse after all over 50s have been inoculated.
The proposal is believed to have been welcomed by the prison service, Public Health England (PHE) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
However if ministers adopt the proposals it would mean killers, rapists and violent crooks could be protected before millions of law abiding citizens.
A government source said the prison service argued in favour of treating prisons like care homes because they have similar problems containing the virus.
Like care homes, staff come in and out of prisons with people living in close confines, according to the source.
It comes as PHE reported Covid outbreaks in 92 of the 117 prisons in England and Wales this week.
Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governors Association, said: “Vaccinating all staff and prisoners will safeguard lives, the community and reduce the risk of overwhelming the NHS.”
The JCVI is finalising recommendations for the second stage of the vaccination programme, but is not expected to make a formal recommendation that prisoners be prioritised.
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However it is unlikely to rule out allowing the government to focus on care-home-style mass vaccination in prisons and other institutions.
A prison service spokesman said: “Prisoners are being vaccinated in line with the priority groups set out by the independent JCVI, no faster and no further than the general public.”
And the government has downplayed the plans, citing that it is following “current” guidelines.
A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesman told the Daily Star: “Prisoners are being vaccinated in line alongside priority groups, in line with current JCVI guidance.”
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