THE leaders of all four Cheshire councils have written to the Government over concerns they will not have sufficient Covid vaccine supplies for younger members of the county's population.

The number of cases in Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington, Cheshire East and Halton had been gradually falling from their respective January peaks, thanks to a combination of lockdown measures and a roll-out of Covid vaccines to the more vulnerable members of the population.

But in recent weeks the number of cases has been on the rise once more in the county, due to a combination of the more transmissible 'Delta' Covid variant, and restrictions easing.

That has meant hundreds of new cases per week are now being reported in the county.

Latest data available suggests the majority of new cases are being confirmed in people aged under 30 – ie, those who are much less likely to have been offered a Covid vaccine so far.

Yesterday it was announced that residents aged 25-29 could now book their vaccine appointment in England.

But the leaders of all four Cheshire councils are urging the Government to provide additional support on the vaccine supplies front, as has been supplied to other parts of the North West, notably in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, where the Delta variant has seen a huge rise in the number of confirmed cases.

A joint letter has been sent to health secretary Matt Hancock, with a copy going to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

The letter reads: "Cheshire continues to make rapid progress in delivering vaccinations, with three-quarters of adults receiving their first jab, and 53 per cent receiving their second.

"But we are at the point now we need to raise with you a serious concern about vaccine supply, which if unaddressed will limit our ability to maintain this pace as younger age groups are invited to come forward, while also meeting our second-dose requirements.

"This is in the context of a rapidly increasing Covid case rate with the Delta variant in our area, which is passing rapidly amongst the 15-40 year age groups, creating a high level of infection in many of our communities.

"On average across our four council areas, the all-age case rate has risen five-fold in just two weeks, with outbreaks in some towns in Cheshire rising many times faster.

"While our teams and the local NHS are dealing with those outbreaks with professionalism and commitment, we recognise that the vaccine is the only route which can enable our economy and society to safely reopen.

"The supply of vaccines into our area simply hasn’t been responsive enough to the challenges on the ground. Areas facing the highest exposure to Covid-19 needed more urgent supplies to boost their protection, but – under NHS instruction, in order to maintain a national programme – have been denied the means to boost the speed of delivery.

"In partnership between councils and the local NHS, we have created an effective delivery infrastructure, which has also enabled our local Primary Care Networks to re-direct their own resources back into general practice. But, due to inadequate and uncertain supplies, this available infrastructure is now operating at only a fifth of capacity.

"In contrast, some other areas of the country, often with lower rates of infection than here in the North West, appear to have had surplus vaccine which enabled them to move more quickly down the age range, and go beyond the JCVI cohorts in some circumstances.

"We would urge you to issue more information about the national distribution methodologies, to give assurance that these decisions are made on the basis of evidence, and with full transparency. This is also needed to give confidence that the next decision on the roadmap is in the interests of all communities.

"This situation now appears to have changed with your announcement that over 25s should now come forward for jabs, to be followed quickly by all over 18s.

"While very welcome, this will create a new set of local challenges. Unless we now see a substantial and urgent increase in vaccine supply, particularly the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines prioritised for younger age groups, we will not be able to assure the delivery of vaccines to the new age groups within communities.

"The experience of people trying and failing to book a jab, or being sent far from their local area, will only damage confidence in the programme, and create unacceptable geographical and social inequalities in access to vaccination.

"We urge you to urgently address these barriers to local delivery, to ensure we keep on track towards successful national and local delivery of this vital programme."

The letter is signed by Councillor Russ Bowden, Leader of Warrington Borough Council; Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council; Councillor Sam Corcoran, Leader of Cheshire East Council and Councillor Mike Wharton, Leader of Halton Borough Council.

While the number of cases has risen rapidly, that has not been replicated in the number of Covid hospital patient admissions.

Latest available data showed there were a total of 10 Covid patients being treated at the four Cheshire hospital trusts.