Sir Lenny Henry has written a letter encouraging black Britons to have the Covid-19 vaccine.
He penned the letter, he said, because there has been a “disproportionate amount of black people and brown people dying” during the pandemic which “we want to stop”.
The TV star and Comic Relief co-founder, 62, has enlisted support from other high-profile figures, including actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, radio personality Trevor Nelson, musician KSI and author Malorie Blackman, as signatories.
Vaccination rates among black British ethnic groups are considerably lower than among white Britons.
The letter, which is backed by the NHS, has also been turned into a short film directed by Amma Asante.
Sir Lenny said: “Everybody signed it because we all believe that this a time for us to be looking after our loved ones and there’s been a disproportionate amount of black people and brown people dying in the pandemic and we want to stop that.
“And we think the misinformation about the science and the expertise of the people that know that stuff, the misinformation that is being perpetuated is wrong, and we thought there must be something we can do to counter it and this was the big idea.”
The letter, addressed to “mums, dads, grandparents, uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters, nephew, nieces, daughters, sons and cousins”, says that the “reality is the new normal may mean needing a vaccine to do many of the things we now take for granted”.
It adds: “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.”
Asked why there was caution in the black community about having the vaccine, Sir Lenny said: “I think there’s an element of mistrust in terms of the system, certain institutions and authorities haven’t done, haven’t particularly done right by the black community in the past and why should they do something for us now? Why are they doing us all a big favour?
“Well the thing is, you can trust the science, you can trust the experts, and I would say mistrust stuff you read in terms of just people online venting.
“Talk to your GP, talk to a science expert, don’t talk to someone down the pub.”