A host of British Asian celebrities and public figures have joined forces to create a video addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minority communities in the UK.
Adil Ray, who created and stars in the BBC comedy Citizen Khan, organised the video, recruiting stars across entertainment and sport to dispel myths and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage people to take it.
Actors including Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, and Asim Chaudhry (famous for his character Chabuddy G in People Just Do Nothing), joined cricketer Moeen Ali, TV presenter Konnie Huq, and comedian Romesh Ranganathan, along with many others, to talk through the vaccine process and answer common questions about it.
Politicians Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative peer, and the current Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also feature in the video.
The message is particularly important because multiple studies have shown that people from ethnic minorities in Britain have been more at risk of infection and death from COVID-19.
A study published January by a group of British Indian academics called the 1928 Institute found that only 56% of British Indians would take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Syal, known for her roles in Goodness Gracious Me andThe Kumars at No. 42, starts the video by talking about how tough the last year has been, saying that “many of us have lost our loved ones.” Then Shobna Gulati, who played a long-running part in Coronation Street, adds: “We will find our way through this, and be united once again with our friends and our families.”
“All we have to do is take the vaccination,” Gulati continues. “My sister has had the vaccine and I’m really looking forward to when it’s my turn.”
Ali reflects on how hard hit many ethnic minority communities have been: “Many in our community have suffered the most, largely due to our efforts on the front line, in the NHS, or as key workers.”
The group then touches on the various myths that have circulated about the vaccine: highlighting, for example, that there is no evidence that the vaccine works differently when given to people from ethnic minorities; or how there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that it affects fertility, or alters DNA.
We all have to do something to help one another during these difficult times. Here's a message we have recorded for members of our Ethnic Minority communities. Please share and retweet. #covid19#vaccinepic.twitter.com/16YUvgxxse— Adil Ray OBE 💙 (@adilray) January 25, 2021
“There is no chip or tracker in the vaccine to keep watching where you go,” adds comedian Ranganathan. “Your mobile phone actually does a much better job of that.”
The celebrities also go into explaining how it is possible that the vaccine was created so quickly, without forgoing stringent safety checks. “The vaccine was available quickly because of a global effort,” explains Huq.
“Because huge funds were made available by governments around the world, something that would normally take years, took just months,” continues actor from three James Bond films, Colin Salmon.
Bhaskar adds: “The COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same strict processes and regulations as other vaccines, such as those for measles, mumps, and rubella, and TB.”
The Runnymede Trust, a UK race equality think tank, told the Guardian that the lack of trust surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out is partly related to hostile environment policies implemented by then Home Secretary Theresa May from 2012 — which led to distrust among ethnic minority communities.
They refer to a set of anti-immigration policies which aimed to make it very difficult for people living in the UK without the right immigration paperwork to access services, cutting people off from the health service or contacting the police, for example.
A spokesperson for the think-tank added: “The vaccine finally provides a way out of this dire situation and a way of protecting those who need it most. There must be immediate action to localise resources to the most in need areas. These are densely populated urbanised areas with large numbers of BME citizens."
Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for deploying the COVID-19 vaccine, added in response to the video: “The Department of Health and the NHS are working closely with Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities to support those eligible for a vaccine and all those who have questions about COVID-19 vaccines."
He added: “As part of this we’re working with faith and community leaders to give them advice and information about the benefits of vaccination and how their communities can get a jab.”