It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I thank my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter for securing the debate. I start by paying tribute to the amazing NHS workers at North Middlesex University Hospital and at Chase Farm Hospital, as well as all the NHS workers in Enfield and the public health team at Enfield Council, who are working day and night to make the vaccine roll-out a success.
The vaccine roll-out programme that began in early January across the nation is nothing short of amazing, thanks to the great work by our NHS. I congratulate the Minister on the work he has done. Right from the start, however, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith set out, there have been concerns with the roll-out in London, and those concerns have been raised by London MPs from day one.
It transpired initially that the vaccine supply to London was inadequate in comparison with other regions, and that the set-up of delivery centres across London was limited and done too slowly to come on board. We knew that the pandemic had highlighted the inequality in our communities and we knew about the pockets of deprivation—the areas with high covid rates and poor healthcare provision: we have been raising those issues over the past twelve months of the pandemic.
It took a very long time for the NHS to be allowed to share the vaccine update data with us MPs. When the Government finally gave clinical commissioning groups permission to share that data, it became abundantly clear that those areas and communities that we had been raising—in Enfield, the communities that had suffered the worst of the pandemic—were also those with the lowest vaccine uptake.
I have raised this matter at many meetings with NHS colleagues and with the Minister. There are many barriers. The issue is not just about vaccine hesitancy, as is constantly repeated; there is an expectation that an 80-year-old Kurdish woman will book an appointment over the internet, but that is just not going to happen. The digital divide in the eastern part of Enfield North constituency, where the uptake of the vaccine by over-65s is just above 50%, is a real issue. There needs to be an easier booking mechanism for areas with a digital divide, as well as for the elderly, who are not very tech-savvy.
The wards in my constituency with the highest covid rates and poor primary care provision do not have vaccine centres nearby. The nearest vaccine centre for constituents in those wards is two bus rides away, which is just not acceptable. Where the need is greatest, the provision is low. In the most affluent areas of my constituency, where there is good primary care provision and many vaccine centres, the uptake is more than 80%, and 40-year-olds are now being called for their vaccines.
Finally, 16,000 people across Enfield—predominantly in the eastern part—are not registered with a GP. There is no clarity on how those constituents will access vaccines. I would be really grateful if the Minister set out the plan for people who are not registered with a GP. Will the Minister also clarify what is meant by the term “hesitancy”, as there is real confusion on that? Does it mean people who reject the vaccine outright, saying, “I do not want this,” or does it mean people with whom no contact has been made after three contact attempts? It is really important that we get some clarity on that.