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COVID-19: Thousands of people 'including some as young as 17' turn up for walk-in jabs in variant hotspot areas

·3-min read

Watch: COVID-19 - Concerns raised over extension of vaccine rollout to younger age groups to tackle Indian variant

Thousands have queued up for walk-in vaccinations in parts of the North West as areas hit by the Indian variant have boosted their jab programmes.

In Bolton, huge numbers turned out after a local councillor said 4,000 vaccines were available and that volunteers would "find a reason to vaccinate you".

Conservative councillor Andy Morgan put out the call in a now-deleted tweet, and later revealed more than 5,000 people were vaccinated at the mobile site in Bolton over the weekend.

Dr Helen Wall, the senior officer for the vaccination programme in Bolton, said the team was largely focusing on eligible groups but others could enquire.

"We are looking for ways to vaccinate people rather than turn them away but we are sticking with the flexibility of the JCVI criteria," she told Sky News.

Reports have said people as young as 17 were able to get the jab at the mobile site, with young people living in multigenerational households among those fast-tracked.

One couple waiting in the queue told Sky News: "It's just a good opportunity to get it. We're not in the age bracket obviously so we thought if we're allowed it we'll go for it."

Bolton has become a hotspot for the Indian variant, which has worried scientists as they believe it could be up to 50% more transmissible than the Kent variant.

The government had said it would be boosting the number of vaccinators and implementing a new vaccination site in Bolton, but the suggestion that younger people could come forward for a jab appears to be a break from government advice.

Watch: COVID-19 - 'Don't be too exuberant' - Caution urged as lockdown eases but end of restrictions in June 'still very likely'

Across England, vaccines are currently only available to those aged 38 and over or those who are vulnerable.

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The vaccination programme has also been bolstered in nearby Blackburn with Darwen, which has also seen a rise in COVID-19 infections.

An extra 1,000 Pfizer doses have been secured every day for the next fortnight in the area.

Dominic Harrison, the local director of public health, wrote on Twitter: "Delighted to say that we now have a 'Green Light' to rapidly increase vaccinations!

"An additional supply of over 1000 per day (Pfizer) for next 2 weeks for both high variant spread areas and all residents over 18 (subject to eligibility)."

More than 20 million people in the UK have now had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine and the government has insisted that its target of offering a jab to all adults by the end of July remains on track.

An early Oxford University investigation has suggested the vaccines remain effective against the Indian variant.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the data gives us a "degree of confidence" in the vaccines but he warned we must still be "vigilant".

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