Minister Rejects Andy Burnham’s Call For Extra Vaccines In Greater Manchester, As Covid Cases Surge
Andy Burnham has called for more vaccine supplies to be sent to Greater Manchester as the region deals with a surge in Delta variant Covid cases (Alamy)
Robert Jenrick has dismissed a bid by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham for vaccine supplies to be diverted to his region from areas with lower rates of Covid-19.
Burnham is calling on the government to open up the vaccine programme to under-25s in the North West of England to deal with soaring coronavirus cases.
But the communites secretary said this morning that there were no plans for Manchester to deviate from the national vaccination programme, which is currently only available to over-25s.
"At the moment we are going to stick with the advice we have received from the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation], our advisers, which say that it is better to continue to work down the age categories on a national basis, rather than adopt a regional or geographical approach," Jentick told BBC Breakfast.
"Their advice has served us well so far as a country, they have got the big calls right since the start of the vaccine rollout.
"So we are going to continue with that approach but try to do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for people in Greater Manchester to get to the vaccine centres.”
Burnham was speaking after health secretary Matt Hancock announced that a "strengthened package of support" will be provided for Greater Manchester and Lancashire, similar to that seen in Bolton, where there was an uptick in the Delta variant of the virus.
He praised the extra help from the government, which includes surge testing implemented by the military, work to maximise vaccine uptake by developing new capacity and increasing targeted communications, and driving “vaccine buses” around the area.
But the Greater Manchester mayor called on ministers to go further and release extra vaccine supplies.
"The need is now," Burnham told BBC Breakfast.
"It is spreading again in places like this, so the vaccination programme can have the most impact right now."Burnham added: “It's not about asking for more supplies than we are entitled to, it's about bringing forward our supplies so we can make a bigger difference.”
He said it makes “much more sense to get on with that vaccination programme in June, particularly getting down to all 18-30 year-olds than doing that in July or later in the year, because the need is now to stop the spread of the virus”.
Burnham did concede that this would require other areas with lower case rates to receive fewer doses than is currently planned.
“It would slow the vaccination programme in other parts of the country where cases are lower," BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“But my argument will be that makes sense for those areas as well, because we’ve all got an interest in stopping the spread of the Delta variant where it is rising, because that might give more confidence around the roadmap.”There have been fears the continued spread of the more transmissible strain of Covid-19, first sequenced in India, could delay the final step on the roadmap out of restrictions beyond the 21 June date.
The government has said they will confirm whether the next stage will go ahead on 14 June, and has so far not deviated from this plan, despite the significant rise in cases,
"The Prime Minister is reviewing the data, and more data is coming in, which is very important," Jenrick told Sky News.
"We created this five-week period between the stages of the road map and that has actually proved invaluable on this occasion, because it's a finely balanced decision.
"We need to see that data of cases, which are clearly rising, but the link to hospitalisations and ultimately to death.
"So the Prime Minister is reviewing that ahead of the decision point, which is going to be June 14 – at that point of course he will let everybody know what the ultimate decision is.”