Six new vaccine sites open across East Lancashire

Video report by correspondent Rob Smith

Six new vaccination sites have opened across East Lancashire to combat the spread of the new Indian coronavirus variant.

Two are in Blackburn, with sites in Darwen, Accrington and Burnley.

Public Health teams say they will offer immunisation to those between 18 and 38 with underlying health conditions or who live, care for or work with anyone such a condition.

Surge testing is also to be introduced in the three wards in Blackburn with Darwen where the Indian variant has been identified.

There were now 2,323 confirmed cases of the Indian variant in the UK, of which 483 were in Bolton and in Blackburn with Darwen.

The new vaccination centres in East Lancashire are:

  • Acorn Medical Centre in Accrington

  • Burnley General Hospital

  • Everest Pharmacy in Darwen

  • Penny Street Car Park in Blackburn

  • Revidge Fold Church in Blackburn

  • Royal Blackburn Hospital

They will use an extra allocation of 1,000 new Pfizer jabs a day for East Lancashire.The sites will be open from 8am until 8pm until Thursday with more extra clinics due after then.

The jabs are also available to anyone aged 38 and over; health and social care staff; and any carers paid or unpaid (who will not be asked for proof).

Vaccinations must be booked in advance via the Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commission Groups and Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS websites.

They are not available on a walk-in basis or through the NHS national booking system.

There is enhanced Covid-19 PCR testing - or 'surge testing' - for anyone living, working or going to school in the BB1 6, BB1 7, BB1 8 and BB2 6 postcodes.

People queue for the vaccination centre at the Essa Academy in Bolton Credit: PA

Meanwhile, the Health Secretary has voiced his frustration that some people are still not getting the coronavirus vaccine, amid fears of the spread of the new Indian variant.

Matt Hancock said the majority of people admitted to hospital in Bolton, which has seen the biggest outbreak of B1.617.2 variant, had been eligible for the jab but had not taken it up.

People are urged to have their vaccines to give themselves the best possible chance of protection. Credit: PA Images

In a Commons statement, he said vaccinations and testing had been "surged" across the town as he announced the jab would be offered to 36 and 37-year-olds from this week.

Mr Hancock said Cases there had doubled in the past week, with 19 people in Bolton in hospital with the variant and eight in Blackburn, and that it was now the dominant strain in the area.

For Labour, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said they were now paying the price for the Government's delay in adding India to the "red list" countries from which returning travellers have to quarantine in a government-supervised hotel.

And Surge testing will take place at a college campus in Manchester following a "small and limited" Covid-19 outbreak.

A total of 17 students in a single teaching group at The Manchester College's Nicholls Campus in Ardwick have tested positive, with the cases being treated as possible variants of concern.

The results have been sent for genomic sequencing to confirm if they are the Indian variant but no link has been established to cases of the Indian variant in Bolton, said Manchester City Council.

There is also no evidence to suggest the college's nine other campuses have been affected, it added.

About 1,300 students and 80 staff are being encouraged to get a Covid-19 PCR test at two mobile testing units on site at the Nicholls Campus to detect any additional asymptomatic cases and prevent any further spread within the college and wider community.