Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 10th February 2022.
How can you support the take up of the COVID-19 vaccination across London, in all communities and age groups?
17.1 million doses have now been delivered to Londoners, including almost 4 million people receiving their booster, and more than 87% of adult Londoners have had their first dose. It has been a monumental effort and we owe the NHS and volunteers a huge debt of gratitude.
With high numbers of COVID cases and the NHS under pressure, it is vital that we continue to do all we can to vaccinate Londoners. I am continuing to support the NHS in its work to improve access to the vaccine, including promoting vaccine clinics open at convenient times and walk‑in centres for Londoners regardless of immigration status and general practitioner (GP) registration. I am also working closely with partners to deliver communication campaigns to promote the vaccine to all Londoners, especially those targeted by disinformation around vaccines. I do not want any Londoner to be left behind in the vaccine rollout, so I have announced new Big Conversation sessions to encourage frank, honest and open dialogue on the questions and concerns Londoners have about the safety of the jabs. I have also launched a video campaign to help encourage young people to take up the offer of the life‑saving vaccine.
I urge anyone who has not yet had their booster or is still waiting to take their first or second doses to book their appointment as soon as possible to help protect themselves, their loved ones and the NHS.
Sem Moema AM (on behalf of Joanne McCartney AM):
I just wanted to ask you about what your views are on what might be the core reasons behind vaccine hesitancy. Notwithstanding the unedifying spectacles that we have had at People’s Question Time, Londoners do have genuine concerns and there are ways to address those. I just wondered what your message is to those people who are reluctant to come forward and take the vaccine because of misinformation that they might hear or see.
Your question is really important because if you park for a second the anti‑vaxxers and those who believe in conspiracies, quite a large number of those who have not yet had their first vaccine are genuinely hesitant for reasons that we can address. They need to be persuaded. The Big Conversation sessions are about having experts who are respected, like Professor Kevin Fenton [Regional Director for London, Public Health England], Dr Vin Diwakar [Regional Medical Director for London, NHS England] and others ‑ Dr Debbie Weekes‑Bernard [Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement] and so forth ‑ listening to and engaging with that group and having a frank conversation.
You can understand, if you are a Black Londoner whose experience of people in positions of power and influence is one of distrust because of the way you have been treated, or if you are somebody whose family has had experience of pharmaceuticals in another country, why you are nervous and risk‑averse. My message is simple: it is never too late. It is never too late.
The good news is that over the last seven days we have vaccinated more than 21,000 Londoners with their first dose. We have made that with what is called the evergreen offer. We are not going to give up on these Londoners because we know the difference having the vaccine can make.
Sem Moema AM (on behalf of Joanne McCartney AM):
Thank you for that. Just before Christmas, I do welcome the fact that your office supported Waltham Forest Council in having a last‑minute pop‑up vaccine session for children as we headed into the school holidays. Some of that was about helping source medically trained staff. I just wanted to explore a little bit how you are working alongside the NHS to make it as easy as possible for people to make the right choice, and then for those facilities to be available for them to get their first dose if they have not so far had that first dose, or for them to continue up to the booster.
It is really important. We must not give up. We have to make it as easy as possible and have as few hurdles as possible for people to receive their first jab. Pop‑up centres are important. The Education Secretary was keen to get vaccines back into schools. We can have a sort of benefits to use. People who like football had the benefit of going to Stamford Bridge and getting the jab. Other football teams are also offering their facilities, cricket venues and so forth. I do want to use the word “gimmicks” because it is a disservice, but we have to be innovative about what sort of things get people in.
The other great thing that we are now doing is experts are going out with a rucksack of jabs to give them out, going door to door in some communities. We really are working with councils in particular, who know their communities best, to try to identify which groups have been missed out and go back to them again and again.