It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I congratulate my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter on securing this very important debate, to enable us, as London MPs, to speak about the situation now, which can be rectified. I add my thanks to all the scientists, NHS managers and fixers, vaccinators and volunteers who have made the roll-out of the vaccine programme so far so swift and such a success.
To defeat this pandemic in the UK, we have to defeat it in London—there is no getting away from that—but the vaccination rate is lower here, as colleagues have said. In my area of south-west London, the CCG has provided the first dose to 389,000 people, which is 26% of the population, but some local authorities around England have a rate of over 50%. Areas such as Rother, West Devon and North Norfolk have much higher vaccination rates, so it is not just an issue of supply, although supply is an issue in my area. We have two vaccination centres and they are not open today. We do hope to see that surge.
In January, a promise was made to open a vaccination centre in Queen Mary’s hospital in Roehampton. It will not surprise the Minister that I am going to talk about Roehampton today, as I have raised the subject many times. The vaccination centre there has been built but not opened. There is no vaccination centre in Roehampton, but there have been spikes of covid infection there. It is an area of high deprivation; as my hon. Friend Catherine West said, this is a tale of two cities.
There are not good transport links from Roehampton. The primary care network is keen to support vaccination but there is no vaccination centre. The rates at the moment are because a huge amount of transport has been organised, relying on voluntary organisations, to make minibus trips to Putney. That cannot go on for the long term; we need a long-term solution for Roehampton, which is an area of highest need.
The Minister knows Roehampton well because he was a Putney councillor for many years. I know that last week he met Dr Hasan from the Alton Practice, who is a shining example of someone passionate about the health inequalities in Roehampton and the need to address them. She is very concerned about vaccine hesitancy in young people. As the vaccine roll-out goes on, the vaccine hesitancy we see will only increase.
In Roehampton there are higher levels of black and ethnic minority populations, isolation and overcrowding. All those mean that having a trusted vaccination centre nearby that can be attended around shifts—for a care worker, for example—is so important. Otherwise, we risk baking in those existing health inequalities for the long term, which will go alongside all the other inequalities felt by the population in Roehampton. They are throwing up their arms and saying, “We don’t get other things, so we are not getting a vaccination centre.” That is not acceptable.
We are not arguing for more in London; we are arguing for our fair share. We are not arguing for more in particular areas; we are just arguing for every area to have its fair share. We must anticipate, see the problems that are already developing and nip them in the bud right now and address them. I hope I will hear from the Minister that we will have a vaccination centre in Roehampton and that those areas being left behind will be identified and addressed.