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Covid-19 Vaccination

Volume 687: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2021

What steps she is taking with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to promote the take-up of covid-19 vaccinations among all communities. (910493)

What steps she is taking with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to promote the take-up of covid-19 vaccinations among all communities. (910498)

The Government are committed to ensuring that everyone who is clinically prioritised to receive a vaccine has access to one as soon as possible. As part of the Government’s vaccine confidence campaign, briefing sessions are being held with community and faith leaders, with an expert panel of speakers taking questions and countering misinformation. That is part of an integrated campaign across multiple channels to improve public knowledge.

A recent survey carried out by the Royal Society for Public Health revealed that only 57% of respondents from BAME backgrounds were likely to accept the vaccine, compared with 79% of white respondents. I know, based on emails that I have received from constituents across Keighley, that there is an element of nervousness about vaccines among the BAME community, so will my hon. Friend outline how she will increase efforts to support vaccine take-up among BAME communities and reassure all that the vaccines are completely safe?

The NHS will provide information to promote the take-up of the covid-19 vaccines among all communities, and will support anyone who has questions about the vaccination process. We are doing a lot of work across Government on this issue. We have had meetings with multiple stakeholders, including last week with the National Pharmacy Association, with which I and the Under-Secretaries of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friends the Members for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) and for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill) discussed options to tackle vaccine hesitancy among minority communities.

Disinformation about the safety of vaccines has caused great alarm for many people. This scaremongering is hugely damaging when mass inoculation is the route out of the current crisis and will enable us to return to normal life. What steps is the Department taking to work with other Government Departments to ensure that accurate information on the safety of vaccines is conveyed to communities for whom English is not their first language?

The vaccine confidence campaign is a cross-Government one, and it includes work to translate key messages and guidance in over 10 different ethnic languages across radio stations and publications. I reiterate my hon. Friend’s point that vaccine disinformation is harmful and dangerous. It is everyone’s responsibility to access information from authoritative sources and not to share misleading information. The Government are also working to help social media platforms identify and take action against incorrect claims about the virus and vaccinations.

Thankfully, we expect uptake of the vaccine among older people to be high, but uptake in that group of people is low when it comes to pension credit. The NHS will have face-to-face contact with almost every older person on these islands this year. I see an ideal opportunity to work with the Department for Work and Pensions to get the message across that billions of pounds of pension credit is going unclaimed by older people. Will the Minister agree to meet to look at how we can do something about that?

The hon. Member’s question is not specifically related to vaccines, so I will defer to DWP Ministers to respond and meet her to discuss the issue.

It is crucial that the vaccine confidence campaign is accessible to those with learning difficulties, those with hearing impairment, those with visual impairment, and those without English as their first language. Will my hon. Friend outline what the Government are doing across all Departments to make sure that the campaign is as accessible as possible to those who are among the least advantaged in our society?

My right hon. Friend will know that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is giving advice on how to prioritise those most in need. The vaccine confidence campaign is specifically to do with vaccine hesitancy, which is not one of the issues that we have found among the groups she mentioned. We want to make sure that they are prioritised according to their need and vulnerability. However, I take the point that she has made and I am assured that that work is taking place across Government.