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Covid-19 Vaccine Uptake

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 19 July 2022

Vaccines continue to be the best line of defence against covid-19, and about 94% of those aged over 12 in England have come forward for their first dose. We are continuing to make vaccinations as accessible and convenient as possible, with thousands of sites operational, including targeted mobile vaccination clinics. Throughout the roll-out, we have monitored data and shared it with local NHS systems to support tailored interventions and outreach. That includes providing bespoke messages from the trusted community and faith leaders who know their communities best.

As the Public Accounts Committee reported last week, there are still 3 million people who have not been vaccinated, and we hope that the Government will give as much support as they can to increase the take-up among that group. However, I am particularly concerned about people with black, black British and Pakistani backgrounds, who are far less likely to have had their first booster. There is a real inequality issue here. Can the Minister give us any further indication of how she will ensure that, on her watch, we do not see that inequality embed itself?

I have read the hon. Lady’s Committee’s report with interest and I recognise the points she has raised. We know that vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minority groups has reduced over the course of the covid-19 vaccination programme, but we will not rest on our laurels. We continue to work closely with our valued communities and community leaders to provide advice and information at every opportunity, and we have materials translated into 28 different languages. There have been many ways in which we have reached out to those communities. For example, we have had vaccination sites in mosques—I visited one in Small Heath in Birmingham—and the Bangladeshi community have come together and encouraged people to get a “jab with your jalfrezi”. We are looking at every different way of reaching out to ensure that we reach all those communities.

Vaccination remains one of the most important ways to protect ourselves and others against covid-19, so I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that he has accepted the independent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on the autumn covid-19 booster programme, but what additional steps does the Minister feel need to be taken to encourage vaccine uptake among those with a hesitancy for the additional boosters?

The hon. Gentleman is right and, as I said to the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Dame Meg Hillier), we know that there is more work to be done and we cannot rest on our laurels. We know that covid-19 vaccinations are our best line of defence and that the more people who come forward and take up their first jab, the more people are protected. That evergreen offer is still there, so if anyone has not had their first jab or has not come forward for their second or their booster, I encourage them to come forward now. It is never too late.