Sir Lenny Henry pens letter urging black Britons to ‘take the Covid jab’

30 March 2021, 07:42 | Updated: 30 March 2021, 08:42

By Joe Cook

Sir Lenny Henry has written to black British people urging them to “trust the facts” and get the Covid-19 vaccine, in an open letter signed by many household names and supported by the NHS.

In the "letter to loved ones", 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."

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Among the signatories to the letter are film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, author Malorie Blackman, football pundit Garth Crooks, performer George the Poet and YouTuber KSI, DJ Trevor Nelson and Bridgerton star Adjoa Andoh.

The letter comes after figures released from the Office for National Statistics on Monday revealed over-70s from black African backgrounds are more than seven times as likely as white British people to have not received a coronavirus vaccine.

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

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

With over 30 million people now vaccinated in the UK, anyone aged 50 or older who has not received the jab is asked to contact the NHS.

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Sir Lenny’s letter has also been turned into a short film directed by A United Kingdom's Amma Asante and starring actors Adrian Lester, David Harewood, Naomi Ackie and Adjoa Andoh.

Sir Lenny said the idea came from talking with some colleagues and friends about the low take-up of the vaccine amongst black communities.

"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,” he explained.

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"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."

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Sir Lenny Henry’s letter in full:

Dear mums, dads, grandparents, uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters, nephew, nieces, daughters, sons and cousins,

We love you!

We know we don’t say it often enough and sometimes we have our disagreements, like all families do, but wherever you are we love you from the bottom of our hearts and we know you love us.

And we want to see you again. Covid-19 has kept us apart for far too long. We want to hug you, we want to celebrate with you, we want to go out for dinner with you, we want to worship with you, we want to go and watch football and cricket with you, we want to beat you at video games - in the same room so we can see the look on your face when we do.

But in order to do all that - we all need to take the Covid-19 jab. It’s all of us in this together.

Things will slowly get back to normal. Well what people are calling the new normal. The reality is the new normal may mean needing a vaccine to do many of the things we now take for granted.

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.

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.

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.

And the thousands who volunteered to be part of the vaccine trials so that we know it’s safe and works for people of all ethnicities.

Don’t let their sacrifice be in vain. 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.

We love you. We don’t want you to get sick. We don’t want you to die.

We know you love us too so please hear us and when your turn comes, take the jab.

And once you do, tell cousin Mo to do the same (is he really my cousin?)

Let’s do this together.

Thank you.

Lenny x