BLACKBURN'S leading public health expert has said he is delighted that the borough has been given approval to increase Covid vaccinations.

Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen's director of public health, had previously called for a surge in vaccinations to help deal with the borough's high infection rates following prime minister Boris Johnson's announcement that although the government is not yet planning further lockdowns, the army will be deployed to help with testing.

Professor Harrison believes vaccinations should have been targeted towards areas like his and has now spoken of his relief that the borough will now receive additional supplies.

He said: "Delighted to say that we now have a green light to rapidly increase vaccinations!

"An additional supply of over 1000 per day (Pfizer) for the next two weeks for both high variant spread areas and all residents over 18, subject to eligibility."

Professor Harrison also confirmed that clinically vulnerable 16-18 year olds can, on the recommendation of their GP, get vaccinated with Pfizer, while public health officials are now awaiting government decision on vaccination for all UK 12-18 year olds.

This comes shortly after the public health director had aired his frustrations over the weekend that the government had not taken enough account of regional variations in infection rates.

Speaking to Local Government Chronicle on Friday, Professor Harrison said: “We now have rising rates in those areas where we precisely predicted those rates and asked for accelerated vaccinations.

"An intervention would have reduced the risk dramatically, but the government has vaccinated at the same rate everywhere which seems completely unfair, one jab does not offer the same life chances up and down the country.”

Turning to the impact of the so-called Indian variant, he added: "The government were two or three weeks too late in making India a red listed country requiring quarantine rather than self isolation at home - red-listing India should have been done at the same time as it was in Bangladesh and Pakistan.”

Professor Harrison told the Local Government Chronicle that he is “furious” that his vaccine calls had, until the most recent announcement, gone unheeded.

He said: “It just feels like there is logic in what we have been asking for and the inevitable consequences of not listening to our calls are now playing out, very sadly.

"Despite the Indian variant surge, they are still not allowing us to maximise an optimal response.

"It is very frustrating that the policy is defined centrally in London for areas with very different risks, if they are hearing us, they are not listening to us.”

However, the additional vaccines policy will now help officials in Blackburn with Darwen to cope with the infection rates and, they hope, help to head off potential local lockdowns.

Similarly, Professor Donna Hall, chair of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, has said that there is now an 'urgent' need for a surge in vaccinations in her borough as well.

She said: "In Bolton our rate increases by 20 to 30 per cent per day.

"We are seeing it go up in five other Greater Manchester boroughs.

Surge vaccination is now urgent, the words of WHO’s Michael Ryan have never been so relevant, 'speed trumps perfection in a pandemic.'

"Seriously what are we waiting for?"