LONDON (Reuters) -Some of Britain’s best-known Black celebrities united on Tuesday to urge the country’s Black communities to have a COVID-19 vaccine after figures showed far fewer were getting the shot compared to the rest of the population.
The Office for National Statistics said on Monday that while overall more than 90% of those aged over 70 had received their first vaccine shot, take up rates among people identifying as Black African and Black Caribbean were just 58.8% and 68.7% respectively.
Hollywood stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton joined actor and comedian Lenny Henry, a household name in Britain, in signing an open letter encouraging those in the Black community to get a shot.
David Harewood, who appeared in hit TV show “Homeland”, Adjoa Andoh, one of the stars of the Netlix series “Bridgerton”, and “Star Wars” actress Naomie Ackie have also teamed up with Henry for a short film to be broadcast on television.
“I hear and understand the concerns which people of all backgrounds are wrestling with, but which are particularly concerning in Black communities,” Henry said.
“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.”
Overall more than 30 million people in Britain have so far received their first COVID-19 shot.
However, ONS figures showed that 85% of White Britons reported they were likely to get the shot compared to fewer than half, 49%, of Black or Black British adults, even though death rates have been significantly higher in Black communities.
Polls have shown a hesitancy among Black and other ethnic minority communities to have a vaccine, fuelled in part by myths and misinformation on social media.
“You have legitimate worries and concerns, we hear that. We know change needs to happen and that it’s hard to trust some institutions and authorities,” Henry said.
“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.”
Reporting by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Catherine Evans