Covid: Blackburn with Darwen over-18s urged to book vaccine

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Queue for vaccine in BlackburnImage source, PA Media
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Queues have formed outside vaccine hubs across the borough

Every adult aged over 18 in Blackburn should book a Covid vaccination, the area's public health director has said.

One thousand extra vaccines a day are being made available in the borough to try to halt the spread of the Indian variant.

Prof Dominic Harrison said all adults should book a jab as people would be "surprised how eligible they are".

"If you have gone shopping for your gran, you are performing a caring role and therefore eligible," he said.

"I want everybody to book," he added.

Across England, only people aged 38 and 39 and over have been invited to book a vaccine so far.

On Thursday, Blackburn with Darwen Council initially said all over-18s would be offered a jab, before later stating only those with underlying conditions could book a vaccination.

A government spokesman said local areas should not vaccinate young people earlier than planned.

Prof Harrison said he was "delighted and relieved" the government was sending more vaccines and they could now "surge vaccinate" and "accelerate rates".

"We are offering the vaccine to everyone over 18. There is an NHS eligibility criteria but everybody should book. If they are at all concerned they might not be eligible they should [still] book," he said.

He said when people turned up for vaccinations they would be "surprised how eligible they are", and he believed "a very, very, very large percentage of people" would be able to get the jab.

Image source, Gemma Bradley/PA
Image caption,
Vaccination centres have been set up in pharmacies and pop-up sites across the borough

Norte Zavvar has been working as a volunteer Covid marshal at Everest Pharmacy in Darwen.

The 35-year-old, from Bolton, said people "really want to have this jab".

"I reckon at the end of the day we will have vaccinated at least 1,000 people," he added.

"It's obvious that the fear people have from this virus - it really made them move and come out and get the vaccine done."

Despite the concerns over the Indian variant, the easing of lockdown rules has gone ahead as planned in England.

The easing allows people to socialise indoors in limited numbers, hug loved ones and visit pubs and restaurants inside.

Claire Khan, who owns Well Bread sandwich bar in Blackburn market, said people seemed "dead excited [and] happy to be back".

"[At] dinner time, the whole seating area was absolutely full," the 35-year-old said.

'Happy and safe'

Michael Davidson, a supervisor at Rhode Island Coffee, said he felt "happy and safe" and thought the town would be "absolutely chocker", but said while that was not the case, it had "definitely felt busier".

"No-one seems nervous... I think everyone just seems happy to be back, and everyone has played by the rules," the 26-year-old said.

The prime minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had said the best way to protect against the new variant was to ensure vulnerable groups got their second dose of the vaccine.

"We want every part of the country to abide by the advice set out by the JCVI, it's this unified approach that has allowed us to proceed so quickly with our vaccine rollout," he said.

More than 6,200 people were vaccinated in nearby Bolton at the weekend after a sharp spike in infections since mid-April.

Prof Harrison said he believed Blackburn with Darwen was about 10 days behind neighbouring Bolton in terms of rise and spread of the Indian variant.

Six people were being treated for coronavirus in east Lancashire's hospitals, he said, with five of those from Blackburn.

He said their average age was 55, with one being of school age.

Prof Harrison urged those who had already been offered a vaccine and had been "hesitant or unsure" that "now is the time to come".

He said vaccines would be available in a hospital hub, pharmacies, pop-up vaccination sites and on an articulated lorry - which has been turned into a mobile vaccine centre.

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