Comedian Sir Lenny Henry has led a fresh campaign urging black Britons to get vaccinated against coronavirus, after new figures revealed huge differences in vaccine uptake between ethnic groups.
The BAFTA winner joined celebrities such as actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton calling for people 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”.
It comes after figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that people of black African origin are five and a half times more likely not to have received a first injection compared to white British.
Data up to 11 March showed that only 58.9 per cent of black African and 68.7 per cent of black Caribbean over-70s have been vaccinated, compared with 91.3 per cent of white people in the same age group.
More than 30m people in the UK have received a first dose of the jab — equivalent to more than 50 per cent on adults in Britain.
But separate data released by the NHS showed that just 466,000 black adults in Britain have had a first dose of the vaccine so far.
The uptake figures are despite black men having the highest Covid mortality rate of any demographic, with 256 deaths per 100,000, compared to 87 deaths per 100,000 among white men.
In a joint letter, Sir Lenny said: “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.”
The appeal, which is backed by the NHS, has also been turned into a short film set to be broadcast this evening.
The Prime Minister thanked Sir Henry for leading the appeal, adding that the vaccine “is our best route out of this pandemic and we must all do our part by taking the vaccine when it is offered to us”.
ONS figures also showed gaps in vaccination rates among different religious groups. The lowest rates were among those who identified as Muslim, with 72.3 per cent having received a jab, and Buddhist at 78.1 per cent.
Meanwhile, the figures for people identifying as Jewish and Christian were 88.8 and 91.1 per cent respectively.
“The vaccine’s been tested for all ethnicities. It’s safe, it’s our way out of the pandemic,” Sir Lenny said. “If you’re in any way hesitant, talk to a medical professional… trust the experts, don’t trust your mate down the pub or conspiracies online. This is serious now. Don’t be misinformed.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, London’s regional director for Public Health England, said: “We know our black communities have been among the hardest hit during this pandemic, but we also know there are some among us who are less likely to come forward for the life-saving vaccine.
“We can all play a role in encouraging our friends and family to take it up when offered, whether that’s answering questions or concerns they may have, pointing them towards information and advice from trusted sources, sharing our own experiences of getting the vaccine or declining to pass on myths and misinformation circulating on social media.”