No more vaccine surge in Blackburn, says NHS as infection rate grows
The NHS cannot provide thousands of extra doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Blackburn with Darwen borough, despite it having the highest infection rate in the UK and a death rate almost a third higher than the national average.
The local MP said it “beggared belief” that Blackburn’s repeated pleas to continue surge vaccinations had been knocked back, arguing the move will place the NHS under “overwhelming and unnecessary pressure”.
Correspondence seen by the Guardian shows Blackburn’s director of public health warning the NHS that not providing additional doses would lead to avoidable deaths and the NHS being swamped within four weeks, calling it “unfair, unjust and avoidable”.
In mid-May 19,500 extra doses were sent to Blackburn and surrounding areas to distribute by 30 May after an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid, which originated in India.
Since then, the rolling seven-day infection rate in Blackburn has increased to 436.2 per 100,000 people, almost 14 times higher than the UK average of 32.1 per 100,000.
Concerned about the rise, Dominic Harrison, Blackburn’s director of public health, wrote to the NHS asking to be allowed to extend surge vaccination for another fortnight, with at least 1,000 extra doses offered to vaccinate everyone over 18 who was eligible every day. He said he was backed by Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire’s director of public health.
But their request was refused by Jane Scattergood, an NHS official leading the Covid-19 vaccination programme rollout in Lancashire and south Cumbria.
In an email seen by the Guardian, she said: “I don’t believe that we are able to secure further additional supplies in the same volume as the ‘surge’ weeks in Blackburn as this is inbound supply dependent.”
Read more of Helen Pidd’s report here: No more vaccine surge in Blackburn, says NHS as infection rate grows
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Australia announces major revamp of troubled vaccine programme
Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has announced a major revamp of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, opening access for those aged 40 to 49 and calling in the army to oversee the rollout.
After national cabinet on Friday, Morrison announced the appointment of Lieutenant General John Frewen to oversee a rollout beset by missed targets and delays, in an effort the prime minister likened to turning back asylum seeker boats during Operation Sovereign Borders.
But in other respects the Morrison government was on the back foot, delaying a demand for states to require aged care workers to be vaccinated and seeking further medical advice about possible unintended consequences.
At national cabinet the federal government also agreed to pay 100% of income support through the temporary Covid disaster payment, unveiled on Thursday to support Victoria through its two-week lockdown, while states will pick up the tab for business support.
From 8 June, people aged 40 to 49 will be eligible for the vaccine, expanding their access from state-run mass vaccination clinics in several states to GPs and clinics nationwide.
Frewen, who has been leading Operation Covid Assist within the defence force, will now become the head of the national Covid vaccination taskforce, a change Morrison told reporters in Canberra would “gives us the opportunity to step up another gear”.
The taskforce and Frewen would gain “direct control” of all aspects of the vaccination program “from communications, to dealings with states, to the distribution and delivery of vaccine [and] the working of the GPs and pharmacists”, he said.