BLACKBURN with Darwen council leaders have written to health secretary Matt Hancock urging him to speed up the roll out of coronavirus vaccinations in East Lancashire.

The move follows new research showing the borough, Burnley and Pendle have the three highest cumulative total Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic a year ago.

The letter - signed by council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan, chief executive Denise Park, and borough public health director Professor Dominic Harrison - tells him: "We are writing to ask you to urgently consider accelerating the delivery of the roll out of AstraZeneca vaccinations to higher risk Covid-19 transmission areas in order to assure equal life chances and pandemic exit dates across the country.

"Research conclusions suggest that areas of enduring high transmission have permanently higher risks of Covid-19 rates for structural reasons.

"These include; higher than average deprivation levels; higher percentages of multi-generational households with a higher number of household members, often resident in smaller housing stock; higher percentages of employees in front-line employment who have been unable to self- isolate during tier and lockdowns restrictions; higher percentages of residents who are unable to self-isolate when Covid-positive for financial reasons; and higher risk demographic characteristics – such as a higher percentage of BAME residents.

"Accelerating the roll out of the vaccine to those local authority areas with higher transmission and mortality is essential to ‘level the playing field of risk’.

"If action is not undertaken immediately, we collectively risk the vaccination programme itself becoming an attributable and avoidable cause of higher mortality in higher risk local authority areas; an attributable cause of delayed ‘pandemic exit’ in higher risk local authority areas; an attributable cause of avoidable economic harm to local authority areas already carrying a greater share of the UK burden of pandemic related income and job loss."