Indian-origin Hari Shukla, 87, among first to get UK Covid-19 vaccine today

Updated on Dec 08, 2020 10:38 AM IST

Shukla, 87, and his wife Ranjan, 83, will receive the first of the two-dose vaccine at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

File photo of Hari Shukla (twitter.com/Discovery_Mus)
File photo of Hari Shukla (twitter.com/Discovery_Mus)
Hindustan Times, London | ByPrasun Sonwalkar , Edited by Vinod Janardhanan

Hari Shukla, a retired teacher and race relations campaigner in north England, is among the first people to get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday, which marks the first day of the UK’s largest mass vaccination programme in history.

Shukla, 87, and his wife Ranjan, 83, will receive the first of the two-dose vaccine at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. They are among the over-80-year-olds prioritised to receive the first of the 800,000 doses in 50 hospitals across the UK. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21 days apart.

Awarded the royal honours of MBE, OBE and CBE for his work in race relations, the Uganda-born Shukla said: “I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine, I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help. I feel very comfortable and happy to be the first one”.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m excited about it. We were waiting for this vaccine for a very long time. Having been in contact with the 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.”

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine and is expected to receive 4 million more by the end of this month. The UK regulator is also evaluating the clinical data of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine candidates.

Shukla, widely seen as a local hero, added: “We hope that everybody will participate in it and get back to next to normal. I have been following the news and our scientists have done a wonderful job. I have no doubt in my mind they are the best in the world.”

Several individuals such as Shukla and Ranjan receiving the vaccine is being publicised widely by the UK’s health authorities to overcome anti-vaccine anxieties among some people, as well as content on social media.

Queen Elizabeth, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, are also expected to be among the first to receive the vaccine.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today marks a huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus. As the programme ramps up in the weeks and months ahead, it is as important as ever to keep to the Covid winter plan - following the rules in your area and remember the basics of hands, face and space.”

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, called the start of the vaccine programme a “turning point”, and said: “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.”

As of Monday evening, 61,434 people have died in UK hospitals and care-homes, making it the worst affected country in Europe, including over 1,000 people of Indian origin. The number of cases has climbed to 17,37,960.

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