The race is on between the vaccine and the virus – and as the Indian variant of COVID-19 spreads in places like Blackburn and Bolton, jab after jab is being delivered to those who need it and now want it.
At a new coronavirus vaccination site, set up in Blackburn on Tuesday morning, it was clear people want to do what they can to make sure this already hard-hit town doesn’t enter another local lockdown any time soon.
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It’s why local leaders have allowed anyone over the age of 18 – who is eligible – to come down and get vaccinated against COVID.
But there is a huge grey area over who is actually eligible and the criteria is vast.
The vaccination director for Lancashire, Jane Scattergood, told Sky News: “In Blackburn we’ve got 16,000 doses we want to get into arms of people rapidly.
“We won’t waste a drop of vaccine and in order not to waste any, we may jab those over 18 who are otherwise fit and well.”
The message from government is not to have a localised approach and we should stick with the national age order, but local health leaders understand the severity that the spread of the Indian variant could have in Blackburn.
Twenty-year-old David Lowrie was first in the queue at 8.30am. He says that getting the vaccine is not just about saving his life, but everyone’s around him too.
He said: “At home, mum’s got Type 2 diabetes which means she’s at risk and my dad’s over 65, so if anything happened to them, if I brought it back from work then I couldn’t forgive myself for doing that to them.
“I just couldn’t see them dying for something we can prevent.”
Not far behind was 25-year-old Nadia Patel, she is worried about the prevalence of the Indian variant in Blackburn.
She said: “We’ve got family in India and nearly every day we’re getting phone calls saying this relative has passed away and another person has passed away, so we’re realising the severity of it this time. So since it’s come over here, it’s a huge concern.”
She added: “We need to move forward now, COVID has been going on for so long, it’s time that we moved on and moved forward with our lives and started living.”
There is however a major concern about the uptake of vaccines in Blackburn.
Almost 18% of those who are eligible for it haven’t yet had their first dose and it’s predominantly down to people in the town’s deprived and ethnically diverse communities who remain sceptical.
Rehan Ali, 35, a steward at the mobile clinic, was one of those people hesitant about taking the jab. He’s put it off for some time, until now.
He told Sky News: “I think it’s wise for me to get the vaccine now, to be safe. I know a lot of people say there are side effects but for me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages so I’m going to get my first dose.”
He’s now encouraging other people in his community to book an appointment and have the vaccine.
He said: “People are looking at countries like Pakistan and India and they’re taking information from there, they shouldn’t be doing that.
“They should be taking information from the local government here and heeding that advice.”
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On the ground in Blackburn, one thing is clear – everyone wants to get back to normal.
Monday’s slight freedom is bliss, but it’s the collective power of people and the vaccinations that will avoid another lockdown.
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