Covid vaccine: Andy Burnham urges authorities to give jab to all over-16s amid India variant surge

Mayor and health official make plea amid fears infection rates could spiral out of control in north west town

Colin Drury
North of England Correspondent
@colin__drury
Wednesday 12 May 2021 09:56
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Health chiefs in Greater Manchester have requested permission to vaccinate everyone over the age of 16 after a sudden surge in Covid-19 cases among young people in Bolton.

Andy Burnham, the region’s mayor, said he and officials had made the plea amid concerns the spike – seemingly driven by the India variant – could grow out of control without decisive action.

“I can report that Greater Manchester has submitted for consideration to the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] a request that we have permission to vaccinate all over 16s in Bolton and more widely,” he said. “That request has gone in and we understand it is being considered.”

Current government policy is to get the jab to everyone aged over 18.

Infection rates have doubled among under 25s in Bolton in the space of a week: there were 152 cases per 100,000 people reported in the seven days up to 7 May but, for those aged 15-19, the rate stands even higher at to 223 per 100,000.

In total, the north west town now has the second highest infection rate in England, according to government data.

Public Health England has said the town has one of the highest rates of the India variant anywhere in the country and that there is some evidence of community transmission.

Mr Burnham, who was re-elected as the region's Labour mayor last week, said: “The way to mitigate the risk is to accelerate vaccination, particularly in the communities most affected by the Indian variant.

“It is the Indian variant that is largely responsible for the increase that we’re seeing in Bolton.”

The Department for Health and Social Care said in a statement no decisions have been made on whether under-18s should be routinely offered vaccinations.

A spokesperson said: "We continue to follow the advice of the independent JCVI to vaccinate the most vulnerable people in society first. The priority order is primarily based on age, which is the biggest factor determining mortality."

Bolton Council said rates in three areas – Rumworth, Deane and Great Lever – were "worrying" especially as the take up of vaccinations was 10 per cent lower than the national average.

The latest surge comes on the back of an especially torrid year for the town. In September it became the first place in the UK where bars and restaurants were told to shut for a second period after infection rates there became the highest in the country.

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