There are fears pensioners are at risk of Covid because of waning protection offered by two vaccine doses.
Scores of elderly patients continue to die in Blackpool within weeks of catching the disease, with 15 deaths recorded in the past seven days.
And, just weeks before families plan to celebrate the Christmas festivities with their families – including grandmothers and grandfathers – the Victoria Hospital’s medical director struck a sombre note during his weekly coronavirus briefing.
Blackpool Victoria Hospital
He said: “It’s important to say, I think, that when you look at these numbers, the majority of patients who are poorly with Covid are over the age of 55 – and mostly … towards over 75 and 85.
“We wonder, don’t we, whether that has been a wearing off of some of the effectiveness of the vaccine, which may well have been delivered in early 2021 – perhaps in March or so on.”
Dr Gardner said data from the UK and abroad showed how effective the third ‘booster’ jab is proving to be.
In a plea also issued to anti-vaxxers, he said: “As community numbers are still high – we are still seeing in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre the prevalence per 100,000 in the high 300s – we can see, in terms of people becoming really poorly and coming to hospital, those numbers have been dropping and we think that is to do with vaccination.
“So the Covid boosters are now available to anybody over the age of 40 who has had their two doses. It’s very easy to book that online – that’s now on the NHS UK website.
“For anyone who hasn’t even begun a course of Covid vaccination, the impact is compelling. I’d still urge people – for whatever reason if you haven’t started the immunisation programme – to start it; if you haven’t had your second dose, to have your second dose; and if you are eligible for a booster, have a booster.
“It just really looks like it’s the most effective way of us controlling this problem.”
There are 34 people within 14 days of their first diagnosis in hospital on the Fylde coast, including 28 on general wards at the Vic, four in intensive care, and two at the Clifton Hospital in St Annes, Dr Gardner said on Wednesday.
He also announced a further 11 Covid-related deaths, taking the Vic’s toll to 886.
Those who have had their booster by Saturday, December 11 will have a ‘very high protection against Covid’ by Christmas, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
Research has shown that two weeks after a booster, people are less likely to have symptoms of the disease.
The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK are among 16 charities now encouraging vulnerable people to take up the offer of a top-up jab.
So far about 16 million people have had a booster vaccine or a third dose across Britain.
People aged 40 and over and the clinically vulnerable are eligible to get a booster six months after their second jab, and they are able to book their appointment after five months has lapsed.
Eligible people are encouraged to get their booster as soon as possible after data showed falling levels of protection from symptomatic disease and hospital admission six months after people have had their second jab. The charities will also encourage patients to get a flu jab.
A study previously published by the UK Health Security Agency showed in adults aged 50 years and over, protection against symptomatic infection was 93.1 per cent in those whose first two doses were of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
Those who had an initial course of Pfizer saw protection rise to 94 per cent.
Those here have been advised to take a test before visiting crowded indoor spaces – which could include busy shops or Christmas parties.
And in Northern Ireland people are being urged to work from home where possible in a bid to curb cases.
It comes amid a spike of cases across Europe and concerns that the crisis could engulf Christmas celebrations for a second year running.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government sees no need to introduce fresh restrictions in England despite rising cases across much of Europe.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Europe is likely to experience more than two million Covid deaths by March as it urged people to take a “vaccine plus” approach to tackling the virus.
The WHO said the European region remains ‘in the firm grip’ of the coronavirus pandemic, with reported daily deaths rising to almost 4,200 a day – double the 2,100 deaths a day at the end of September.
Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach.
“This means getting the standard doses of vaccine, taking a booster if offered, as well as incorporating preventive measures into our normal routines.
“Taken together, wearing a mask, washing hands, ventilating indoor spaces, keeping physical distance and sneezing into your elbow are simple, effective ways of gaining control over the virus and keeping societies going.”
Meanwhile, new estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that more than nine in 10 UK adults have antibodies for Covid.
And separate ONS figures show that a total of 169,767 deaths have occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.