Prisoners will not be given priority status in the Covid vaccination programme, Downing Street has declared.
No.10 moved to dismiss speculation that “jabs for lags” would take place ahead of the wider population.
It is expected that key workers will also not be fast-tracked once the over-18s phase of the vaccine rollout begins in April.
Phase one of the programme covers all those over 50, health and social care workers, care home residents, and those with underlying health conditions.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI), revealed to MPs on Wednesday that it had now completed its recommendations for the second phase that will run from April to the end of July.
The Times reported on Thursday that the JCVI had suggested prisoners should be jabbed “en masse” in individual jails.
But a No.10 spokesperson said: “One report I read this morning which suggested that we’ll be vaccinating prisoners before other groups within wider society, that’s obviously not the case and is not true.
“Prisoners won’t be prioritised for vaccines. They are vaccinated as the same time as the general public, in line with the JCVI prioritisation group groups. No quicker than that.”
The Times had reported that, although there will not be any formal exemption from the age-based list for prisons, the JCVI wanted local areas free to carry out mass vaccination in institutional settings such as prisons, after complaints that it was impractical to separate out prisoners by age.
Vaccinators in some areas will “just go in and vaccinate everybody there – do all the prisoners and the staff, everybody on the site in one go,” a source had told the newspaper.
“By this point you’re not taking vaccine away from granny to give to offenders. It’s just pragmatic.”
Harnden signalled that key workers like teachers and police would not be given priority status either, as the science didn’t justify any special treatment.