Calls for all over-16s to get vaccine in areas seeing surge in Indian COVID variant

·3-min read
A NHS staff member prepares to administer the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A NHS staff member prepares to administer the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. (PA)

Everyone over the age of 16 should get vaccines in areas where cases of the Indian COVID variant are surging, Manchester’s mayor has urged.

Andy Burnham announced on Tuesday that Greater Manchester has asked the Joint Council on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for permission to vaccinate all adults over the age of 16.

It comes as the B1.617.2 variant, which first emerged in India, has spread to the UK with cases rapidly rising in the North West and London.

Speaking to reporters, Burnham said that Greater Manchester has submitted a request to the JCVI for "permission to vaccinate all over-16s in Bolton and more widely in Greater Manchester".

Read: More than half of local areas in England recorded no COVID deaths in the last week

He added that the measure would allow them to "mitigate the risk of spread in those communities where we are seeing more transmission".

The mutation is behind the surge in cases in Bolton, which has seen its infection rate jump to 133.5 per 100,000 up from 70.2 the previous week.

Dr Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operation Research Unit at University College London, warned on Monday that recent data shows transmission of the Indian variant is “incredibly concerning”.

"It's not looking good at all,” she tweeted, adding: “Ignoring problems when they're 'small' has been one of the MOST damaging things this whole pandemic.”

Undated file photo of man receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The Bank of England is set to hike its forecasts for the UK economy on Thursday as the vaccination programme and easing of lockdown help boost Britain's recovery. Issue date: Monday May 3, 2021.
A man receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. (PA)

Pagel cited research by the Sanger Institute, which has looked into community transmission of the variant in the UK.

The figures show that in the two weeks up to 1 May, the B1.617.2 variant went from 1% to 11% of coronavirus cases in England.

Pagel warned that the areas where the variant is concentrated include the East of England, the East Midlands, the South East as well as London and the North West.

She added that testing does not look like it’s increased so the B.1.617.2 variant “seems to be spreading quickly”.

Watch: New coronavirus variants can 'come out of a blue sky', warns Prof Whitty

“Numbers still low(ish) but for how much longer? What will happen after 17 May when so much more opens?” she warned.

The sudden surge in the Indian variant comes as the country in general sees a huge fall in deaths and cases.

On Monday, England recorded zero new deaths within 24 hours for the first time since July on Monday.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson announced that England’s lockdown easing will proceed as planned on 17 May.

This means people will be able to meet in groups of six or two households indoors, while pubs and restaurants can serve customers inside.

The UK government said that their roadmap will be an “irreversible” lifting of lockdown rules although the rapid rise of the new B.1.617.2 variant is adding to concerns that the UK could face another wave of the virus later this year.

Read more:
Zero COVID deaths recorded in England in past 24 hours
WHO expert urges England to go back to normal life... but wear a face mask

Speaking about the variant at a Downing Street press conference on Monday, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said: “It has gone up very sharply and I think that’s a reason for us to be very careful about it.”

He added: “What we know with all the variants is things can come out of a blue sky. You’re not expecting it and then something happens. That is what happened with the B1.1.7 and that has happened to India with this variant as well."

Watch: COVID-19: No more face masks in schools from 17 May