Ministers are understood to have received recommendations form the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on the next round of jabs covering 18-50 year-olds, with a decision expected imminently.
It is thought that the committee has rejected proposals for workers in key occupations, such as teachers and police, to be next in the queue or for particular ethnic minority groups to have priority.
Instead, they are understood to have recommended continuing to work through the age-range, sending out invitations in 10-year age-bands down to 18. The government aims to offer protection to all adults by July.
But the JCVI is believed have accepted that local vaccination teams should be given flexibility to deal with institutions like prisons in a single go, to avoid the need to separate inmates out by age and have multiple visits, potentially wasting vaccine.
Downing Street today gave a firm thumbs-down to the idea.
Asked if prisoners could potentially receive the jab before others the same age or older – potentially including their victims – Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “That is obviously not the case and is not true.
“Prisoners won’t be prioritised for vaccines.
“They are vaccinated at the same time as the general public in line with the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) prioritisation groups, no quicker than that.”
The spokesman confirmed that, while the JCVI makes the recommendation, it is for ministers to make the final decision.
“The JCVI make their recommendation and we take it forward in terms of the vaccination programme,” he said.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi indicated earlier this week that there was no prospect of ministers overturning the experts’ proposals, saying: “We will absolutely follow what they recommend.”
Schools minister Nick Gibb played down the chances of teachers being given priority, saying that the JCVI’s recommendations were driven by data on “morbidity, the most vulnerable to hospitalisation and deaths” and not on occupation.
As the rollout progresses through younger age-groups, “we will be vaccinating more and more teachers”, he said.
Last week there were Covid outbreaks in 92 of the 117 prisons in England and Wales, leading to calls for jails to be treated like care homes, giving priority to vaccinating all staff and inmates.