'Check and get' call for Covid vaccines as Burnley residents reminded extra doses are available
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The call comes from Lancashire County Council's director of public health, Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi, who says it is a "cause for concern" that rates are rising in some corners of the county - particularly among largely unvaccinated young adults.
Burnley has sparked particular concern over its rising case rate - which is now the second-highest in Lancashire after Blackburn with Darwen and sits in the top ten nationally. Additional vaccines have been made available in the borough and while residents are still subject to the national eligibility criteria for vaccination, it is hoped that the extra doses will enable those who are eligible for it to receive a vaccine sooner.
Appointments for the additional jabs can be booked only via the local Lancashire and South Cumbria booking system.
Dr. Karunanithi said: "Extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been made available to residents of Burnley and the surrounding areas to ensure more people are protected from Covid-19, in light of the threat posed by the B1.617.2 variant of concern first identified in India.
"It is also vital that you continue to test regularly and take up the offer of a asymptomatic PCR test in Burnley, with surge testing being delivered in the area this week."
The plea comes after new research found that the two most common vaccines in use across the UK are effective at preventing symptomatic disease from the variant of the virus first discovered in India, which is driving some of the transmission in Lancashire and neighbouring areas including Bolton.
However, the Public Health England study revealed that two doses are required before significant levels of protection are achieved. One shot of both the Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines is just 33 percent effective against the Indian variant three weeks after injection, but that rises to 88 percent for Pfizer and 60 percent for Oxford AstraZeneca two weeks after a second jab.
It is thought that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine may be more effective against the variant than those figures suggest, but that is not yet reflected in the data because second doses were rolled out later than those of the Pfizer jab.
The Lancashire-wide Covid case rate stands at 33.7 for the week to 18th May, above the England average of 21.3 - but there are wide variations within the county, with Burnley's rate being 60.7 over the same period.
The current national eligibility criteria means anybody aged 32 or over - or who will turn 32 by 1st July, can book their jab.
Anyone over 18 is also eligible if they:
***have underlying health conditions making them vulnerable to Covid;
***are living, caring or working with anyone with underlying health conditions;
***are working in frontline health and social care roles,
***have a learning disability;
***are acting as the main carer to someone deemed vulnerable to coronavirus - whether in a paid or unpaid capacity. No proof of their carer status is required.
Speaking of his concern about the spread of the virus amongst younger age groups, Dr. Karunanithi said: "This is why it is so important that anyone who has not yet received their first Covid jab should check their eligibility and book without delay.
"This is why decisive action is being taken to tackle the spread of this particular variant.
"We believe there are people out there who are eligible to receive the vaccine, but do not realise it, such as people who look after their family members or those who work with someone with an underlying health condition.
"Booking your appointment are really easy and I encourage everybody who is over 18 and eligible for the vaccine to book it without delay.
"If you have already had your first dose, wait until you are called up for your second jab and book your appointment then.
"Vaccinations are the most effective way we can combat the virus and resume normal life."
LANCS COVID CASE RATES (cases per 100,000 people in the week to 18th May)
Blackburn with Darwen - 215.1
Blackpool - 21.5
Burnley - 60.7
Chorley - 55.8
Fylde - 9.9
Hyndburn - 54.3
Lancaster - 17.1
Pendle - 44.5
Rossendale - 57.4
South Ribble - 20.8
West Lancashire - 9.6
Wyre - 13.4
LANCASHIRE AVERAGE - 33.7
ENGLAND AVERAGE - 21.3