Over 18s In Blackburn To Be Offered Covid Vaccines From Next Week After Sharp Rise In Indian Variant
Everyone over 18 in Blackburn and Darwen can get their vaccine from next week (Alamy)
Selected adults aged over 18 in and around the Lanchashire towns of Blackburn and Darwen will be able to book their coronavirus vaccine to help tackle cases of the Indian virus variant.
The rollout will be combined with surge testing to help isolate cases of the new variant, which was first identified yesterday in the Blackburn wards of Bastwell and Daisyfield; Billinge and Beardwood; and Shear Brow and Corporation Park.
The council's efforts were initially focused on these three areas, where over-18s were invited to book vaccines yesterday, but is now undertaking a ramped-up programme of PCR testing, contact tracing and vaccination across the whole borough.
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has reportedly secured an additional 3,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be made available next week to support the rollout.
"The council and NHS partners have secured extra doses of the Covid-19 vaccine that will be made available to anyone in Blackburn with Darwen aged over 18 from next week,” a spokesperson said.
However, the council later backtracked on its position, with jabs now being offered to only some people aged under 38 — the current lowest age which is eligible for the vaccine.
"Contrary to earlier social media and news reporting, vaccines at the clinics will not be widely available to over 18s," a council statement said.
"They will be available within current Government guidance, which is currently anyone over the age of 38, anyone over 18 with an underlying health condition or who lives with someone who has lowered immunity, health and social care staff and carers."
It continued: "Blackburn with Darwen Council and NHS partners have responded immediately to provide doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the clinics following yesterday’s announcement on a rise in cases of Covid-19 linked to, in part, a new variant of concern, first identified in India, that may spread more easily."
The town joins Bolton and Sefton as areas which are seeing a rise in coronavirus cases linked to this new mutation of the virus.
The B.1.617 strain, commonly known as the Indian variant, has been listed as a “variant of concern” by Public Health England, and scientists are not yet sure if it is more infectious or resistant to vaccines.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “anxious” about this latest coronavirus mutation, and said his government was "ruling nothing out" when it came to tackling its spread.
"There are a range of things that we could do. We want to make sure we grip it,” he said.
"Obviously there's surge testing, surge tracing, making sure that whenever you have a case, you check everybody who's been in contact with that person.
"But if we do have to do other things, then of course, I think the public would want us at this stage to rule nothing out."
Earlier This week, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham called for all over-16s in Bolton, along with the rest of the Greater Manchester area, to be given the jab in order “to mitigate the risks of spread in those communities where we are seeing more transmission”.
With 152 Covid cases per 100,000 people in the week up to 7 May, Bolton has the second highest infection rate in England, according to government data.
Blackburn with Darwen, meanwhile, currently has an infection rate of 114.2 cases per 100,000 people.In a joint statement yesterday following the first confirmed cases of the variant, Council Leader Councillor Mohammed Khan CBE, Chief Executive Denise Park, and Director of Public Health Professor Dominic Harrison urged people to remain vigilant.
"We understand that people will be anxious to know that we have found cases of the variant first identified in India locally, but please don’t be overly worried – we expect the virus to mutate and variants are likely to be part of how we live with Covid-19.
"There is also currently no evidence that this variant causes more deaths, severe illness or escapes vaccines.
They continued: "However it is now important to act by getting tested as soon as possible if you’re feeling under the weather, even if you don’t have the three classic symptoms of a fever, loss of taste or smell, or a cough.
"Whilst the Prime Minister announced this week that we can progress to Step 3 of the government’s roadmap as planned next week, we need everyone in Blackburn with Darwen to be extra vigilant and proceed with caution."