The Preston villages where almost all adults are double vaccinated
Preston’s rural villages have been praised by health chiefs and politicians after it emerged that they are amongst the most vaccinated parts of England.
The latest NHS data on vaccine uptake across small groups of council wards shows that an area centred around Broughton and Wychnor - and which includes Woodplumpton and Barton - has the second-highest proportion of over-18s in the country to have had both jabs.
Similarly high take-up rates have been identified in another of the so-called "middle layer super output areas" surrounding Grimsargh and Goosnargh - which also incorporates Haighton and extends north to Inglewhite and Whitechapel. That patch lies in sixth place in the vaccine league table.
The villages are leading the way in a cluster of locations along a stretch of the A6 to the north of Preston where residents have driven vaccination levels to the point where almost their entire adult populations have been covered with two doses.
Garstang and Catterall also make it into the top ten, while Fulwood sits in seventeenth position.
That means Preston is the most represented council area in the top 20, with Lancashire the most represented county.
The exact proportion of people who have been fully vaccinated in a particular area is difficult to determine because the data on which that figure is based is derived from estimates of the current population, informed by the results of the 2011 census.
For that reason, the statistics for the Broughton and Wychnor location actually suggest that more than 100 percent of people have been double jabbed. Although clearly an anomaly - and a mathematical impossibility - the figures do reliably indicate that almost all adults in that area have received two doses of vaccine.
For Goosnargh and Grimsargh, the proportion stands at 95 percent, while in Garstang and Catterall in Wyre it is 93 percent and in Fulwood 91 percent.
Across the Preston City Council area as a whole, only 61 percent of adults have so far had two jabs, while 74 percent have received their first.
Broughton Parish Council chair Pat Hastings says she is delighted - but not surprised - by the vaccine stats about her village.
“I think it boils down to Broughton people being very socially responsible - they always have been. Everybody I speak to seems to have had their vaccine.
“When I saw these figures, I just thought: ‘Wonderful - aren't we marvellous?’ It’s something Broughton can be really proud of.
“I’ve also got a feeling we’ve got quite a high proportion of our population working in the NHS - I'm certainly aware of quite a few. People who work in the health service have obviously seen the effects [of Covid] as well,” Cllr Hastings added.
She said it was obvious from the outset that take-up of the vaccine was going to be high in the village - with residents who were first eligible for a jab back in the winter months being prepared to travel to find one of the fewer vaccine sites that were available at that time.
Later in the rollout, jabs were given at the nearby Preston Grasshoppers vaccination site - a convenient location for villagers, which Cllr Hastings believes will also have boosted rates. She says the fact that the area has had relatively high infection levels throughout the pandemic is also likely to have contributed to a sense of urgency about getting fully vaccinated.
“But I wouldn't want [any of those explanations] to take away from the fact that Broughton has done something good - because I think we have and we have hopefully contributed to reducing the levels of infection.
“So many people have issues [that mean] they can't have the vaccine - so those of us who can almost have a social responsibility.
“It’s like we’ve done our bit.”
Over in Grimsargh, deputy chair of the parish council Mark Bell says that residents seem to have been naturally Covid-cautious throughout - an attitude which he believes is reflected in the high levels of vaccine take-up.
He also says that villagers are keen to recapture the lives they previously lived - but without taking unnecessary risks.
"I think all the businesses and the community have been very engaged throughout - people are probably fed up, but keen to do whatever they can.
“We have got a well-supported pub and club that have been excellent throughout the whole pandemic and have been very Covid-secure. I think, as a community, we are just very focused on doing the right thing and wanting to get back to normal, but not being reckless about it,” says Cllr Bell.
He hopes that the popular Grimsargh Field Day will be able to make a return next summer after being cancelled this year and last.
Meanwhile, the parish council itself is leading by example when it comes to inching back to normality - and has opted to maintain the previous Covid precautions taken at its own gatherings even though social distancing and face-covering is now optional.
“We’re still sitting two metres apart and wearing masks, just to keep things as Covid-secure as we can.
“I’m the youngest person on the council and I certainly wouldn't want to put anybody else at risk,” Cllr Bell added.
Jane Scattergood, the senior responsible officer for the Covid vaccination programme in Lancashire and South Cumbria, thanked locals "playing their part by booking their appointments as soon as they are invited".
“Over 257,801 doses of the lifesaving vaccine have been delivered in the Greater Preston area so far, which is a testament to the incredible response the vaccination programme has received.
“I’m so proud of the NHS and its partners - specifically, GP practices, community pharmacies and hospital trusts - who are doing an incredible job at delivering the vaccine at pace to protect our residents. We simply couldn’t have vaccinated so many people without all our fantastic volunteers and we are so grateful for their support and contribution to the programme.
“To those who have not yet come forward for the vaccine – it’s not too late to change your mind. We will continue to make the offer available across all of our vaccination sites [and] with many sites offering walk-in appointments, getting your vaccine is easier than ever.”
Sue Whittam, the Lancashire county councillor for Preston Rural North - the division that covers many of the villages shown to have so fully embraced the vaccine - says that village halls and parish councils have been helping to get the message across. She hopes that the example set by residents in her area will spread - and stop the virus from doing so.
"I think it is important that we all do our bit to emphasise the importance of vaccination and I hope that this will continue across all areas. The evidence is clear - having the double Covid vaccination saves lives," County Cllr Whittam said.