'I urge you to take immediate action' says council leader in letter to Matt Hancock urging him to prioritise jab for Covid hotspots
The leader of Preston Council has written directly to Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for 'immediate action' in supplying the Covid-19 jab to Preston and other areas with high infection rates.
His letter yesterday asked the Department of Health to begin rolling out the jab to the worst-hit areas, instead of vaccinating the population by age group in order to reduce the number of deaths by the virus.
Matthew Brown, Leader for Preston City Council, previously warned that Preston could be set for tougher restrictions over summer following "stubbornly high" infection rates.
He also addressed the disproportionate effects of Covid on many, including BAME communities and people living in poverty in the city.
He said: "Considering the high infection rates for weeks, I have written to Matt Hancock requesting the prioritisation of the vaccines in Preston.
"Preston became an area of intervention on August 7, additional restrictions which have never been removed or decreased, and continues to have one of the highest infection rates in England despite the extensive effort of ourselves, Lancashire County Council and other partner organisations.
"We have hosted multiple community testing sites, worked extensively alongside community and faith leaders, led a high performing local authority track and trace programme, engaged in national campaigns and invested in local campaigns, provided comprehensive environmental health services support to businesses in the local area and are now providing administrative resources to enable the mass vaccination site in the city centre.
"We have taken every opportunity made available to us, supported every collaboration and adapted to the changing landscape in every necessary way."
He added that Preston's above-average infection rates were a result of deprivation levels, higher risk ethnicities, more multi-generational households and higher percentages of residents that couldn't self isolate due to financial reasons.
As of yesterday, March 4, Preston's infection rate had dropped significantly to 149.5 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 193.5 on March 1 and 236.8 cases for the seven days to February 18.
Speaking to The Post last week, he warned Preston residents that they could be heading for tighter restrictions over summer again, similar to those imposed last year if the Government doesn't prioritise the Covid-19 vaccinations to the communities worse affected by the virus.
He added: "The infection rate in Preston is remaining stubbornly high when compared to the rest of Lancashire. If we don't prioritise this vaccination for the communities that are worse affected then we could be potentially facing local lockdown restrictions in summer, whereas other areas will have them lifted.
"If the infection rate in Preston doesn't fall substantially we really will be in a mess. Potentially, the rate will spread even further, especially with the younger communities. We already know the disproportionate effect of the virus on deprived communities."
And Coun. Brown added that an unstaggered approach to reopening the classrooms, set for March 8 across England, will drive up rates yet again - particularly in areas with higher levels of deprivation.
In a response to the Post, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are focused on saving lives and continue to follow the advice of the independent JCVI to vaccinate the most vulnerable first, based on age as the biggest factor determining mortality. Over 20 million people are already benefitting from the first dose of this life saving jab.”
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