Sir Lenny Henry urges Black Britons to get COVID jab or get left behind

Albertina Lloyd
·Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
·3 min read

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.

Read more: Dawn French and Lenny Henry had to move police officers into their home due to 'continual racism'

“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.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Sir Lenny Henry attends an event to lend support for an appeal to raise funds to support jobs across the Arts at The National Theatre on September 01, 2020 in London, England.  (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
Sir Lenny Henry is urging Black Britons to get vaccinated against COVID-19. (Getty Images)

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.

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 02: Naomi Ackie wearing Stella McCartney trench coat, navy shirt green stilettos and baby blue leather bag  outside Stella McCartney during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2020/2021 Day Eight on March 02, 2020 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hanna Lassen/Getty Images)
Naomi Ackie has also signed the letter. (Getty Images)

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.

Adjoa Andoh, actress in conversation with Lorelei King at the Quantum: Inspiration Informed by Data Conference, during the London Book Fair in Olympia Centre in London, UK, on April 9, 2018.(Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
'Bridgerton' star Adjoa Andoh is also among the stars calling for Black Britons to take up their jab offer. (Getty Images)

The video featured celebrities including actors Adil Ray and Meera Syal, comedian Romesh Ranganathan and TV presenter Konnie Huq.

Read more: Elton John sends himself up in NHS ad for COVID vaccine with Michael Caine

ONS data showed that 72.7% from Bangladeshi backgrounds and 74% of British people identifying as having Pakistani heritage had accepted the vaccine.

Sir Elton John, 73, and Sir Michael Caine, 87, also appeared in an NHS advert encouraging people to get their jabs.

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