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An 87-year-old retired race relations expert from Newcastle will help make medical history when he does his “duty” and becomes one of the first people in the western world to have a Covid vaccine.
“I’m so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine”, said Hari Shukla ahead of receiving his jab. “I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help.”
Shukla and his wife Ranjan, 83, will have the first of their two injections of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary on Tuesday morning, a week after Britain became the first country in the western world to approve a coronavirus vaccine.
“Having been in contact with NHS staff I know how hard they all work and I am grateful for everything they have done to keep us safe during the pandemic,” he said.
Shukla is one of the 400,000 people who will be injected – in the shoulder, not the arm, as with most injections – as a priority at one of 50 hospitals around England because they are either over 80, live or work in a care home, or are an NHS worker with poor underlying health or whose work puts them at higher risk.
Shukla was born in Uganda and studied at Exeter University. He later returned to Britain to work in race relations, first in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire. He moved to Newcastle in 1974 when he became the director of the Tyne and Wear Racial Equality Council.
He has been awarded an MBE, OBE and CBE for his work. In 2018 he published a book, the Art of Giving, about promoting better relationships between ethnic groups in Newcastle. The former teacher has also been honoured with a “local hero” plaque in the city.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, hailed the start of the vaccine programme as a “turning point” in getting to grips with the Covid pandemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 75,000 people across the UK and left more than 200,000 needing hospital treatment.
“The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive turning point in the battle with the pandemic. NHS vaccination programmes which have successfully helped overcome tuberculosis, polio and smallpox now turn their focus to coronavirus,” he said.
Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, has warned that the rollout of the vaccine will be “a marathon, not a sprint”and will take months.
The chief medical officers of the UK’s four home nations warned last Friday that “vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with Covid over the next three months”. NHS staff face several “hard months” before the vaccine starts in the spring to significantly reduce the number of people being hospitalised, and dying, they added.
NHS leaders in England are worried that hospitals could struggle to cope in January and February amid a third wave of Covid and winter pressures, which usually descend at that time, the Health Service Journal reported on Monday.
“National NHS leaders are concerned that anything over 5,000 Covid patients [still] in hospital by the year end would leave the service vulnerable to being overwhelmed,” it said. A total of 12,241 beds were occupied by Covid patients on Sunday, official figures show. Hospitals usually face their busiest months at the start of a new year, especially if a cold snap occurs, when they treat people, especially the elderly, who have serious breathing problems or have fallen over on ice or snow.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: One of first people in UK to receive Covid jab says: ‘I feel it’s my duty’ | World news