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Surgeon general says prisons are 'particularly vulnerable population,' defers to states on vaccine priority

Vice-Admiral Jerome Adams said, "governors in these states are going to have some tough decisions".

U.S. Surgeon General Vice-Admiral Jerome Adams says the government recognizes that the population at corrections facilities are at high risk for the spread of COVID-19 but stopped short of saying they should be moved up the priority list for receiving the vaccine.

This after the ACLU of Ohio and the American Medical Association, among others, called for the prioritization of the vaccine in prison populations.

According to Vice-Admiral Adams, the government has been careful to listen to recommendations from independent groups such as the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine in order to avoid the appearance that the government is picking winners and losers.

“One thing I can tell you from the data and from what they’ve told us is that corrections facilities are high risk,” Adams said. “Once the virus gets in, it spreads like wildfire in these facilities and they should be considered a particularly vulnerable population.”

RELATED: 'Prisons are tinderboxes for infectious disease' | ACLU, medical groups push for priority vaccinations for inmates

Adams says the federal government will defer to individual states on who gets priority, however.

“The governors in these states are going to have some tough decisions because everybody at this point thinks that they are a particularly vulnerable population or essential workforce,” Adams said. “As the vaccine rolls out we’re going to aggressively work to make sure that the governors have the flexibility to immunize for the greatest impact in their state.

The Prison Policy Initiative says The COVID-19 case rate is four times higher and twice as deadly in state and federal prisons than in the general population.

The issue is not without controversy with politicians from both parties coming out in favor of and against the prioritization of prisoners for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier in December, Ohio State Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green tweeted, “Quite simply, prisoners should not be given the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before free Ohioans. Period.”

At least seven states have included prisoners in the first round of vaccinations, and thirteen states include prison staff, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

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