A surge in coronavirus infections in Bolton has not yet spread to the over-60s, raising hopes that the vaccine is protecting against the Indian variant of the virus.
The Greater Manchester borough now has the highest infection rate in the country after a huge spike in cases in the last few fortnight.
There were 553 positive tests in the town in the week ending May 9, which is more than double the number in the previous week. More than half of the cases in the town are now from the B1617.2 strain, or Indian variant, of the virus.
However, analysis of data published by Public Health England shows that the spike in cases is mostly confined to schoolchildren and young adults.
And among the over 60s, where three quarters of people have been fully vaccinated with both doses, there has been hardly any noticeable increase in the infection rate.
In the week ending on May 7th, there were 106 cases among children and teenagers aged 10 to 19 years old but there were just five cases among those aged over 75.
The most recent infection rate for those aged over 60 is 43 cases per 100,000 people, compared to an infection rate of over 300 for teenagers aged 15-19.
The most recent data runs up to May 7th so public health officials will be monitoring the numbers closely to see if the virus spreads to older generations in the coming week.
During the second wave of the pandemic, spikes in cases did start in younger age groups before moving to older people, however this was before the vaccine roll-out programme started.
According to the most recent NHS data, a total of 48,928 people aged over 60 in Bolton have received both doses of the vaccine – which is 75.2 per cent of the population in that age range.
Health officials in Greater Manchester have written to the government to ask if the vaccine roll-out programme can be accelerated in Bolton and other areas which are seeing surges in cases due to the Indian variant of Covid-19.
Coun David Greenhalgh, leader of Bolton’s Conservative-led council, said: “Yes, our rates of the Indian variant are going up, but while hospitalisations remain low and all evidence points to the effectiveness of the vaccine, the administration’s message to government is ‘do not lock us down. Do not take us out of the road map’.
So far NHS England has refused to allow ‘surge vaccinations’, preferring to focus on additional testing in affected areas.
“The majority of our cases are in their teens, 20s and 30s. Send us more vaccinations and allow us to vaccinate 18 years+ now, that is the answer, not further restrictions.
“We have been here before. All that will happen is people will travel outside the borough, sometimes 50 yards up the road across a boundary to access hospitality. It does not work and our hospitality is left struggling again, and on its knees.
“More targeted vaccines please and allow us to re-open.”