By Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill
LONDON (Reuters) - Only 55% of Black people in England in their 70s had been vaccinated against COVID-19 by last week compared with 86% of white people that age, a study showed, as celebrities and officials encourage minorities to accept the vaccine shots.
Britain has outpaced most other countries by giving at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to more than a quarter of its population.
However, people from Black and South Asian backgrounds, who have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths, have been more reluctant to be vaccinated.
Among those from South Asian backgrounds, 73% of people aged 70-79 had been vaccinated by Feb. 11, according to a study by OpenSafely, run by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Recent polls have indicated that Black, Asian and other minority groups in Britain have more concerns about the vaccine's reliability, while government advisers believe socioeconomic factors raise these groups' risk of dying from COVID-19.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of the National Health Service in England, on Monday said this hesitancy was a "real concern" and that a huge effort was being made to overcome it, with some signs of success.
HAVE TO DO BETTER
Celebrities and other public figures have also been encouraging people to take the vaccines.
Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, on Thursday addressed a webinar hosted by the British Asian Trust aimed at debunking myths around COVID-19 vaccines.
He said he was saddened by the variable uptake, and that it was "a tragedy that the benefits of such an extraordinary achievement should not be experienced by everybody".
Television comedy writer Adil Ray coordinated the creation of a video of celebrities with minority backgrounds encouraging people to take the vaccine, which was due to air on television on Thursday.
He said that public debate in Britain about the impact of coronavirus restrictions on Christmas celebrations, pubs and "scotch eggs", which are wrapped in sausage meat, had no bearing on the cultural life of many Asian people who may not celebrate Christmas, drink alcohol or eat pork.
"All those things matter, and those are things that we have to do better at," Ray told the BBC.
By Thursday, 16.4 million people in Britain had received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Alistair Smout; Editing by Kevin Liffey)