Watch: Lenny Henry warns Black Britons not to miss out on COVID jab
Sir Lenny Henry has urged Black Britons to accept the coronavirus vaccine to avoid being "left behind".
The 62-year-old actor and comedian has joined Black stars including 12 Years a Slave actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, former Line Of Duty star Thandie Newton, Bridgerton actor Adjoa Andoh, musician KSI and radio DJ Trevor Nelson in signing an open letter to the British Black community, warning them not to turn down their COVID jab.
Henry said in an accompanying video: “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.”
Noughts and Crosses author Malorie Blackman, performer George the Poet, Hustle's Adrian Lester, Homeland star David Harewood, and Star Wars actor Naomi Ackie have also signed.
The letter reads: "Because we love you – we want you to be safe and we don’t want you to be left out or left behind. While other communities are rushing to get the vaccine and millions have already been vaccinated, some Black people in our community are being more cautious.”
The appeal comes after analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found over-70s of Black African heritage in England are 7.4 times more likely not to have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine than people of white British ethnicity.
Just 58.8% of those identifying as having Black African backgrounds had taken up the opportunity to be vaccinated.
The data showed just 68.7% of Britons identifying as Black Caribbean had accepted their invitation to have a first dose of the COVID jab.
The letter, supported by the NHS, will be broadcast as a short film, directed by the Bafta award-winner Amma Asante, on Sky, BT Sport, Viacom, Discovery, A&E and ROK between 8pm and 9.30pm on Tuesday night.
It follows a video released in January urging the BAME community to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The video featured celebrities including actors Adil Ray and Meera Syal, comedian Romesh Ranganathan and TV presenter Konnie Huq.
ONS data showed that 72.7% from Bangladeshi backgrounds and 74% of British people identifying as having Pakistani heritage had accepted the vaccine.
More than 30 million people in the UK have already received their first dose of the COVID vaccine, and 3.6 million have had their second dose.
The focus is currently on the over 50s, health and care workers and those with underlying medical conditions.
Watch: BAME celebrities star in COVID vaccine ad