Leading Rotarian among first to have Covid vaccination

Leading Rotarian among first to have Covid vaccination

A Rotarian from Newcastle has become among the first people in the UK to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Dr Hari Shukla was given the jab last week at the Roya Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, as the Government began its roll-out of nationwide vaccinations in a bid to kerb the virus.

Dr Shukla is a Past President of Newcastle Rotary and a Paul Harris Fellow. Aged 87, he is still a very active Rotarian and a race relations campaigner.

His son Nitin Shukla is also a Rotarian and District International Chairman for Rotary North-East.

Speaking after having the vaccination which he had along with his wife Ranjan, Dr Shukla said that he felt it was his duty to do whatever he could to help. He told the BBC: “The whole world is looking at us to see how things go.”

It was the first of 800,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 jab which is being dispensed over the coming weeks, vaccinating the over-80s, as well as some health and care staff.

It is expected that up to four million more doses of the vaccine will be made available by the end of December, as mass vaccinations begin in the New Year at hubs dotted about the country.

Vaccinations are not compulsory, but 40 million does have been ordered, enough for 20 million people, since two courses are needed.

The UK is the first country in the world to use the Pfizer vaccine after it was approved by regulators last week.

The whole world is looking at us to see how things go.”

Dr Shukla was born in Uganda and came to the UK in 1974. He was director of the Tyne and Wear Racial Equality Council, and has been honoured with a CBE after being named as a Hero of the City of Newcastle for his work in race relations.

He said he wanted to use his position in the community to tell others the vaccine was safe

Dr Shukla, who has nine grandchildren, told the BBC that he was proud to participate in “this very important activity”.

He said: “I don’t take this for granted because hundreds of people have worked for this vaccine day and night to make sure we got the vaccines in good time, so the lives of people can be saved.

“We are absolutely grateful to almighty God for giving us such a wonderful health service, which I feel is the best in the world.”

Ranjan Shukla was second to be vaccinated in Newcastle, after watching her husband go first.

Afterwards, she said they had been called out of the blue and asked if they wanted to be vaccinated. “When I told my family they were overjoyed,” she said.

“They said ‘You’re very lucky, mum and dad’.”

Dr Shukla said it was important they took part in the programme and wanted to encourage others to follow them.

He told the Newcastle Chronicle: “I feel happy I have been able to play my part.”

Ranjan added: “It is such a historic day, I didn’t realise it at the time we were asked but now as time goes on, I see it is something bigger than I was expecting.”

Dr Shukla said wanted to use his position in the community to tell others the vaccine was safe.

He said: “Sometimes people don’t have any contact with the health service, so they don’t fully realise how important it (the vaccine) is, sometimes they have some concerns – ‘should I have it, should I not’?”