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LONDON, Tues. March 30, 2021 (Reuters) – Caribbean roots, British-born actor and comedian, as well as the Chancellor of Birmingham City University, Sir Lenny Henry, has made a special appeal to Black Britons to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

His open letter came after figures showed a big lag in those from Britain’s African and Caribbean communities having 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, the take up rates among people identifying as Black Caribbean and Black African were just 68.7% and 58.8%, respectively.

Sir Lenny wrote an open letter encouraging those in the Black community to get a shot. “I hear and understand the concerns which people of all backgrounds are wrestling with, but which are particularly concerning in Black communities,” stated the Chancellor of Birmingham City University, born to born in Dudley to Jamaican immigrants who emigrated to Britain from Jamaica before he was born. “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 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 higher in Black communities.

“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,” Sir Lenny 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,” he added.

Sir Lenny and other high profile names, including actors Chiwetel Ejiofo, David Harewood and Adjoa Andoh, appear in a short film which will be broadcast on television to make the same appeal.

(Reporting by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge)

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