Covid-19 Vaccine: Take-up Rates in London — [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:11 am on 9th March 2021.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 10:11 am, 9th March 2021

I thank my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter for securing this debate. What we are seeing is a tale of two cities, but within one constituency in my case. We know from the excellent work of Professor Marmot that the decade of neglecting to address health inequalities, which are writ large under the covid pandemic, is really showing itself in the vaccination strategy.

I thank Dr Maimaris from Haringey Council, who is the head of public health, and Dr Peter Christian of Dukes Avenue practice, who is leading on the GP side. He told me last Friday that one of his colleagues in Wood Green made 30 phone calls, and that of those only one person was keen to take up the vaccine offer. That is the kind of hesitancy that we are seeing. In my constituency, someone who catches the 41 bus from Wood Green to Hornsey Rise sees their life expectancy rise by years and years, so that by the time they get to Highgate, they will be living 15 to 20 years longer than the average person in Wood Green—that is common across many of our London constituencies.

We have been working hard with Christian churches, with Rabbi David Mason in Muswell Hill, and with the Imam in Wightman Road mosque, where I will be at the weekend to push for many more people to take up the vaccine. We really need to understand the granular detail of the levelling-up debate in the national context. It is not just about levelling-up between the north and south of England, but levelling-up within our constituencies. North Middlesex University Hospital and Whittington Hospital have done a wonderful job during the pandemic. I pay tribute to their staff, and call for them to be correctly remunerated. I hope that the Government will review their position on the 1% pay offer, which is just a disgrace.

This is not just about the level of vaccine on offer. We know, for example, that in the Fortis Green and Crouch End wards in my constituency, 99% of eligible people have had the vaccine. That number falls to 74% in Wood Green. Office for National Statistics data up to February 2021 showed that fewer than 50%—some 49%—of black or black British adults said that they were likely to have the jab. We must have high-quality conversations between GPs and their patients to tackle that. We also know from the OpenSAFELY analysis that 60% of black people aged 70 or over had been vaccinated, compared with 75% of south Asians and 90% of white people. Nowhere is that clearer than in my constituency.

What we need to do is to address health inequalities in the wider sense. We need to consider the impact of overcrowded housing, educational attainment, the high incidence of violent crime and all the indicators of inequality, and address them. We cannot have another decade of neglect and unequal distribution. We are a wealthy country; we are simply not spending public funds in the right way to address long-term health inequalities. If anything has shown that, it is this vaccination strategy, which shows it in all its detail.