Public Health England (PHE) said modelling studies had shown that the speed of vaccine deployment was the most important factor in maximising benefits and targeting occupations would slow down the programme.
The NHS does not keep occupation on file, so confirming professions would have added an extra level of bureaucracy to the rollout and potentially left more vulnerable people unvaccinated for longer, PHE warned.
Recent evidence shows that teachers in particular are no more likely to be infected with Covid than the general population, although some occupations – such as transport workers – are at much greater risk.
Other people at higher risk of hospitalisation include men, those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, those with a BMI over 30 and those living in deprived neighbourhoods. The JCVI said priority should be given to promoting vaccine uptake in those groups.
Prof Wei Shen Lim, the Covid-19 chair for the JCVI, said: “The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age. The vaccination programme is a huge success, and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.”