THOUSANDS of additional people who live and work in Blackburn are getting vaccinated amid a battle with rising coronavirus infection rates.

Health bosses in the town have managed to secure an extra 16,000 doses of the vaccine as officials look to tackle the spread of the Indian variant of the virus, which has hit the town hard.

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that over 400 cases of the variant, which spreads more rapidly, had been detected in Blackburn with Darwen and Bolton.

Today and yesterday, six new vaccination centres have been opened – four in Blackburn with Darwen, one in Accrington and one in Burnley. One of them is the pop-up centre in Penny Street Car Park, Blackburn, which opened at 8.30am today.

Speaking as people arrived to get vaccinated, Jane Scattergood, Covid-19 vaccination director for Lancashire, said: “We have secured 16,000 extra vaccines for the people of Blackburn and the surrounding areas because of the increase in transmission of the coronavirus and the variant that was first identified in India.

“It is highly transmissible and around 17-18 per cent of people who were eligible for the vaccine haven’t yet come forward so we are having a big push and creating lots of really local venues that people can go to and access the vaccine rapidly.”

She added: “We’ve put loads of vaccine into Blackburn, made it convenient, it protects you, protects your loved ones and stops transmission.”

The sites will be open from 8am until 8pm until Thursday with more extra clinics due after then. Although they will not deliver Covid-19 jabs to all residents aged 18 and over, they will offer immunisation to those between 18 and 38 with underlying health conditions or who live, care for or work with anyone such a condition.

The jabs are also available to anyone aged 38 and over; health and social care staff; and any carers paid or unpaid.

Vaccinations must be booked via the Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commission Groups and Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS websites.

David Lowrey, first person to be vaccinated at the Penny Street clinic, said: “It was such an easy and quick process, and I would recommend anyone getting the vaccine.

“I came here today because my mum is vulnerable, she has type two diabetes. It is awful and she’s been paranoid. If you can have the vaccine, why wouldn’t you?"