The latest official figures show almost half of the population at one Welsh prison snubbed a Covid vaccination.

Up to Tuesday 1,816 prisoners at HMP Berwyn in Wrexham had been offered a Covid jab, but only 52 per cent (946 men) had received a first dose.

Fewer than 30 per cent (532) have been fully vaccinated so far, according to statistics handed out by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and reported by our sister publication, The Leader.

But the Ministry of Justice contests the numbers, saying more people have received a vaccine. The government department has so far failed to provide any figures of its own.

It comes after a report in Inside Time magazine revealed up to two-thirds of prisoners in some UK jails had refused a jab.

In early June it was reported there was a refusal rate of 66 per cent at the detention facility. This figure has since improved, leading to hopes more inmates will become vaccinated against Covid-19 in time.

Gill Harris, the health board's executive director of nursing and midwifery, said: “All 1,816 men at HMP Berwyn have been offered the Covid-19 vaccine and information about the benefits of vaccination is being shared with them on a regular basis.

“As of (Tuesday), 946 men (52 per cent) had received a first dose, while 532 (29 per cent) had been fully vaccinated.

“We continue to encourage those who have yet to take up the offer of vaccination to come forward, in order to give themselves the very best protection from Covid-19.”


A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice claimed she had received “confirmation” the number of prisoners who had received a vaccine was higher.

The department has not responded to a request for its own record of vaccination rates at the jail.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Betsi Cadwaldr health board confirmed the figures it had originally given were a correct record of vaccination at the facility.

The MoJ spokeswoman said the prison has a “protective isolation unit for prisoners who present as symptomatic and those who have tested positive”.

There is also a prisoner and staff testing strategy in place with all new arrivals receiving PCR tests, while those due to be released are offered lateral flow tests.

A petition to Welsh Government, complaining about conditions at the prison was rejected in February this year because it doesn’t have jurisdiction over justice.

It claimed prisoners were being locked in cells for up to “24 hours a day” and there were “days where they are not fed due to mass number of staff being absent with Covid-19 or are isolating”.

The Ministry of Justice said it had brought in a number of changes across the prison estate in the interests of prisoners.

It said it had brought out “secure video calling” so inmates could keep in touch with their families and provided “more than 1,500 mobile phone handsets and extra phone credit”.

Prisoners with mental health issues had been supported by special teams of “key worker officers” providing one-to-one support for between five and six prisoners.

It added it had “moved vital rehabilitation work – such as education, work opportunities, and exercise – in-cell where possible”.

HMP Berwyn, dubbed a “superprison because of its size”, is Britain’s largest and capable of housing 2,100 category-C criminals.

The £250million flagship jail has been beset by issues since it opened almost four-and-half years ago and has never reached full capacity.

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