The head of the Government’s vaccine taskforce, Kate Bingham, has disclosed that officials plan to vaccinate just 30 million adults “at risk” out of the population of 67 million.
MPs from across the Commons said the public would not accept officials or ministers “playing God”.
Steve McCabe, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medicines and Medical Devices, said: “Voters will not accept it.
“She has let the cat out of the bag and it is clear there is no plan for under-50s to receive the vaccine and no plan for key workers either.
“It is reasonable to argue that a vaccine will be limited in supply at first and we may need to prioritise who gets it first, but the public will not accept the idea of unelected officials, private companies or ministers playing God and saying who will get a vaccine and who won’t.”
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said: “At this stage, putting an age limit on who gets the vaccine is unhelpful. Clearly, priority needs to be given to those who are vulnerable.
“It is absolutely right that we start to talk about these things now. If there are any lessons from PPE and test-and-trace it is that you require a logistical blueprint to be developed. Rolling out the voluntary vaccine will involve a challenge comparable in its complexity with the D-Day landings.”
Former Cabinet minister Greg Clark called on the Health Secretary to explain what would happen to the “other half”. “Everyone in the House hopes there will be a safe and effective vaccine in the months ahead,” he said. “But the head of the vaccines taskforce has said she expects it to be available to only half of the population. What are the implications for the other half?”
Mr Hancock said decisions would be taken by ministers based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations.
The committee recommended last month that the policy for under-50s be decided later after a risk-benefit assessment. But Ms Bingham appeared certain that the decision had been taken when she told the Financial Times: “People keep talking about ‘time to vaccinate the whole population’ but that is misguided. There is going to be no vaccination of people under 18. It’s an adult-only vaccine for people over 50 focusing on health workers and care home workers and the vulnerable.”