Millions of Brits could get urgent second dose of vaccine to tackle rising Indian Covid variant

Additional coronavirus vaccine clinics are being set up in Blackburn amid a rise in cases but the jab will not be offered to all adults yet, the council has said.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 8:20 am

The Prime Minister has admitted he was “anxious” about how quickly the variant is spreading in the UK.

Ministers are now poised to order further action in response to the spread of the Indian coronavirus variant of concern as new figures show cases have more than doubled in a week.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows a rise in cases from 520 to 1,313 this week in the UK, with the agency saying cases were “rising in the community” and it was assessing the impact and severity of the variant.

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Commuters wear face masks as they wait at a tram stop in Sheffield (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

One response being considered is bringing forward the date for a second dose of vaccine for eligible groups to increase protection.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the situation was being monitored carefully and the Government “will not hesitate to take further action if necessary”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out local lockdowns being necessary to contain the spread of the virus.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at PHE, said: “We need to act collectively and responsibly to ensure that variants do not impact on the progress we have all made to drive down levels of Covid-19 and the increased freedom that brings.”

In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door PCR Covid testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.

A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has been sent in.

Meanwhile, surge testing has been deployed in Sefton, Merseyside, after cases of the Indian variant were confirmed in the Formby area.

Earlier on Thursday, Blackburn with Darwen Council said extra doses would be made available for all over-18s from next week following a surge in cases linked to the Indian variant.

But in a later statement, the Lancashire authority said additional vaccines would not be widely available to all adults.

A spokesman said: “Contrary to earlier social media and news reporting, vaccines at the clinics will not be widely available to over-18s.

“They will be available within current Government guidance, which is currently anyone over the age of 38, anyone over 18 with an underlying health condition or who lives with someone who has lowered immunity, health and social care staff and carers.

“Blackburn with Darwen Council and NHS partners have responded immediately to provide doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the clinics following yesterday’s announcement on a rise in cases of Covid-19 linked to, in part, a new variant of concern, first identified in India, that may spread more easily.”

The area has the third highest rate of cases in England, with 161 new cases in the seven days to May.

On Thursday, the UK reported another 11 deaths within 28 days of a positive test and a further 2,657 coronavirus cases.

The UK had recorded 520 cases of the Indian variant up to 5 May, according to the latest figures published by Public Health England (PHE).