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April update: Sir Lenny Henry urges black Britons to take COVID-19 vaccine; announcement for adults living with adults who are immunosuppressed

01 April 2021

Sir Lenny Henry urges black Britons to take COVID-19 vaccine 

A letter to loved ones about the COVID-19 vaccine

Sir Lenny Henry | NHS

Sir Lenny Henry has written an open letter to encourage Black Britons to take the COVID-19 vaccine, signed by some of the most high-profile names in the UK. 

12 Years a Slave actor and Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, author Malorie Blackman, actor Thandie Newton, football pundit Garth Crooks, performer George the Poet and musician KSI, radio personality Trevor Nelson and Bridgerton star Adjoa Andoh are among those who have put their names to the letter which encourages Black adults in the UK to make informed decisions about the vaccine and protect themselves and the people they care for by getting vaccinated when their turn comes. 

Sir Lenny’s letter, supported by the NHS, has also been turned into a powerful short film, directed by BAFTA Award winner Amma Asante, which features Lenny alongside Adrian Lester, David Harewood, Naomie Ackie, Rt Rev Rose Hudson Wilkin, Bishop of Dover and Adjoa Andoh.  

Announcement for adults living with adults who are immunosuppressed 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the government to prioritise people for the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine who are over 16 and living with adults who have weakened immune systems, such as those with blood cancer, HIV or those on immunosuppressive treatment including chemotherapy. 

Early data suggests adults who are immunosuppressed may not respond as well to the COVID-19 vaccine as others.  

There is growing evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines may reduce the chance of someone who has been vaccinated passing the virus on. Given this emerging evidence, the JCVI advises that those over 16 years of age who live with severely immunosuppressed adults are offered the COVID-19 vaccination alongside priority group 6. This will help limit the spread of the virus to immunosuppressed adults. 

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, said: 

“Household contacts considered as a priority would be those over 16 who share living accommodation with adults who are immunosuppressed. The JCVI does not currently advise vaccination of household contacts of immunosuppressed children, or household contacts of immunosuppressed adults who are themselves children. 

Further details have been sent by NHS England and NHS Improvement to local health providers: 

  •  ‘Immunocompromised’ / ‘severely immunosuppressed’ includes anyone in group 4 or 6 for reasons of immunosuppression (or who would have been in those groups had they not been in group 1 – 3). This includes: 
  1. Individuals who are receiving immunosuppressive or immunomodulating biological therapy including, but not limited to, anti TNF, alemtuzumab, ofatumumab, rituximab 
  2. Patients receiving protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors, and 
  3. Individuals treated with steroid sparing agents such as cyclophosphamide and mycophenolate mofetil. 
  4. Individuals treated with or likely to be treated with systemic steroids for more than a month at a dose equivalent to prednisolone at 20mg or more per day for adults. 
  5. However, this does not include people in bubbles with the household of an immunosuppressed person (e.g. frequent visitors who do not live with an immunosuppressed person for the majority of the week) 
  • If you are in this group, you will be sent a letter by your GP explaining the change. You will need to bring this letter and proof of your address to the vaccination centre. 
  • Those with severe immunosuppression are therefore more likely to suffer poor outcomes following infection and are less likely to benefit from the vaccines offered. 
  • People who are ‘supporting an immunosuppressed person through a period of treatment – e.g. daily care for the majority of the week’ and ‘who are unable to provide matching proof of address may also be eligible for vaccination.