Sir Lenny urges black Britons to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, author Malorie Blackman and radio DJ Trevor Nelson are among the signatories of an open letter by Sir Lenny Henry urging black Britons to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

In the letter Sir Lenny acknowledges the ‘legitimate worries and concerns’ that people feel, adding: ‘We know change needs to happen and that it’s hard to trust some institutions and authorities.’

He continues: ‘But we’re asking you to trust the facts about the vaccine from our own professors, doctors, scientists involved in the vaccine’s development, GPs, not just in the UK but across the world including the Caribbean and Africa.

‘Many of whom are our relatives, many of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the people of this country from this pandemic.’

Older people from black African backgrounds are more than seven times as likely as white British people to have not received a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, author Malorie Blackman and radio DJ Trevor Nelson are among the signatories of an open letter by Sir Lenny Henry, pictured above, urging black Britons to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, author Malorie Blackman and radio DJ Trevor Nelson are among the signatories of an open letter by Sir Lenny Henry, pictured above, urging black Britons to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, author Malorie Blackman and radio DJ Trevor Nelson are among the signatories of an open letter by Sir Lenny Henry, pictured above, urging black Britons to get the Covid-19 vaccine

A report published today by the Office for National Statistics found just 58.89 per cent of black African Brits over the age of 70 had received at least one dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca 's vaccine by March 11

A report published today by the Office for National Statistics found just 58.89 per cent of black African Brits over the age of 70 had received at least one dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca 's vaccine by March 11

A report published today by the Office for National Statistics found just 58.89 per cent of black African Brits over the age of 70 had received at least one dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca ‘s vaccine by March 11

The report found that Muslims were the religious group least likely to take the vaccine, with only 72.3 per cent of over-70s getting one so far, followed by Buddhists (78.1 per cent)

The report found that Muslims were the religious group least likely to take the vaccine, with only 72.3 per cent of over-70s getting one so far, followed by Buddhists (78.1 per cent)

The report found that Muslims were the religious group least likely to take the vaccine, with only 72.3 per cent of over-70s getting one so far, followed by Buddhists (78.1 per cent)

The rate for people in the black African group receiving a first vaccine dose was estimated to be 58.8 per cent – the lowest among all ethnic minority groups.

The estimated rate for people identifying as white British was 91.3 per cent.

Sir Lenny’s letter, which is supported by the NHS, has also been signed by high profile figures including former footballer Garth Crooks, author Reni Eddo-Lodge, Mobo Awards founder Kanya King, activist Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Olympian Denise Lewis and historian David Olusoga.

It has been turned into a short film directed by A United Kingdom’s Amma Asante and starring actors Adrian Lester, David Harewood, Naomie Ackie and Adjoa Andoh.

The letter adds: ‘Don’t let your understandable fears be what holds you back.

‘Don’t let your concerns be the thing that widens racial inequality in our society.

‘Don’t let black people continue to be disproportionately impacted by this terrible disease.

‘Many in our community say they do not want to take the vaccine, much more than other groups.

‘But the fact is we have been disproportionately affected by the virus, many of our loved ones have died. Don’t let coronavirus cost even more black lives.’

The film will be aired across Sky, BT Sport, Viacom, Discovery, A&E and ROK and Channel 5 on Tuesday from 8pm.

The ONS calculated that black Brits were up to seven times less likely to get the jab than their white peers

The ONS calculated that black Brits were up to seven times less likely to get the jab than their white peers

The ONS calculated that black Brits were up to seven times less likely to get the jab than their white peers

Sir Lenny said: ‘I felt it was important to do my bit and so I wrote this letter to black Britain asking people not to get left behind, to not continue to be disproportionately impacted and to trust the facts from our doctors, professors and scientists, not just in the UK but across the world, including the Caribbean and Africa.

‘I hear and understand the concerns which people of all backgrounds are wrestling with, but which are particularly concerning in black communities.

‘I want people to be safe, I don’t want people to die or end up in hospital because of Covid-19. So I’m saying, when your turn comes, take the jab.

‘I want to thank everyone who has signed the letter and dear friends who took part in Amma’s beautiful film.’

A report published on Monday by the Office for National Statistics revealed just 58.8 per cent of black African Brits over the age of 70 had received at least one dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca‘s vaccine by March 11.

The ONS said that, nationally, uptake in the over-70s was 90.2 per cent when all ethnic groups were included, with rates highest among white people (91.3 per cent) and Indians (86.2 per cent). 

People who were disabled were also slightly less likely to have been vaccinated compared to healthy people of the same age. The reasons for this are not totally clear

People who were disabled were also slightly less likely to have been vaccinated compared to healthy people of the same age. The reasons for this are not totally clear

People who were disabled were also slightly less likely to have been vaccinated compared to healthy people of the same age. The reasons for this are not totally clear

Those in the most affluent areas were more likely to have received their Covid jab than those in the most deprived areas

Those in the most affluent areas were more likely to have received their Covid jab than those in the most deprived areas

Those in the most affluent areas were more likely to have received their Covid jab than those in the most deprived areas

After black African Brits, the poorest rates were recorded in black Caribbeans (68.7 per cent), Bangladeshis (72.7) and Pakistanis (74 per cent). 

The report, which included data from 20million over-70s invited for their jab in England, also found Muslims were the religious group least likely to take the vaccine, with only 72.3 per cent of over-70s getting one so far, followed by Buddhists (78.1 per cent). 

People who were disabled were also slightly less likely to have been vaccinated compared to healthy people of the same age. The reasons for this are not totally clear.

Ben Humberstone, head of health analysis and life events at the ONS, said: ‘Vaccination rates are markedly lower amongst certain groups, in particular amongst people identifying as black African and black Caribbean, those identifying as Muslim, and disabled people. 

‘These differences remain after accounting for geography, underlying health conditions and certain indicators of socio-economic inequality.’ 

Jab hesitancy among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people has been a theme throughout the rollout, with language barriers, a mistrust in Government and misinformation online thought to be fuelling scepticism.

The Government last month launched an advertising blitz to tackle the problem amid fears that rates will become even poorer as the scheme moves down to younger people who are less vulnerable to Covid but still spread it. 

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