Hari Shukla, 87, says he feels it was his duty as a citizen to roll up his sleeve as one of the first recipients of a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.K. Tuesday.
“Our scientists have worked day and night, you know, to produce this, and so it is our duty now to take advantage of it,” said Shukla, who lives in Newcastle, England.
“Some people have concerns, you know, they’re not quite sure whether they should take it or not,” he told Matt Galloway on CBC Radio’s The Current.
“My duty is [to say]: ‘Look, I said I’ve done it, and you go and get injections yourself as well.’ “
The U.K. approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last week, administering the first injection Tuesday morning to Margaret Keenan, a retired shop clerk who turns 91 next week.
Public health officials have dubbed the vaccine rollout V-Day.
WATCH | Hari and Ranjan Shukla say they’re well after vaccination:
Shukla and his wife, Ranjan Shukla, received the injection at 8:30 a.m. local time at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
“The staff were absolutely wonderful people and they made me very comfortable and made sure that I didn’t have any worry or any concern,” he said, adding that the process took five minutes, and hadn’t left any adverse effect or soreness at the injection site.
“We feel very happy about it.”
Shukla has spent much of his life as a community activist and a campaigner for racial equality, and is very active in his local community.
He said it was difficult to stay at home since the pandemic began.
“I’m on 27 committees,” he said. “There is always a meeting somewhere.”
He and Ranjan will receive their second shot on Jan. 5, after which he hopes he can slowly return to community life.
He said lots of people in his community have called to say they saw him on TV, receiving the vaccine.
“I tell them, I say ‘Look, you know, don’t waste time. Whenever you actually get a chance, get it,’ ” he told Galloway.
“The virus is a very serious and dangerous one, and we’ve got to take proper precautions.”
Community leaders can help vaccine effort: expert
Vaccine hesitancy expert Dr. Noni MacDonald says the fact that Shukla is a leader in his community will reassure people who may be nervous about getting the vaccine.
“Hari standing up to get the vaccine will mean many people who see him as a leader [will think]: ‘Oh, this is the right thing for me to do,’ ” said MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“We’re much influenced by what we see others around us doing,” she told Galloway.
“We need really good leaders from all across the spectrum in communities to come forward to help make it known that the immunization is really important in the community.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that 249,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were on track to be delivered this month. Approval for the vaccine is expected within days, which means vaccinations could begin within weeks.
Health Canada is currently reviewing four vaccines, from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Jannsen. Trudeau has insisted Health Canada’s ongoing approval process has been stringent.
WATCH | Trudeau discusses the Health Canada regulatory process:
“There are no corners cut by Health Canada in terms of approving a vaccine for safe use by Canadians,” he said.
Polls have suggested up to a third of Canadians want to wait before getting the vaccine.
“Some people want to just wait and see it used widely,” MacDonald said.
But she said “we need 70 per cent of the people in Canada to take the vaccine.”
“We need to get that if we’re really going to control the virus in our country.”
MacDonald said most Canadians are going to have to wait anyway, “because we don’t have a lot of vaccines.”
“By the time most of us would have an opportunity to get this Pfizer vaccine, probably a million people will have got it, not all in Canada, but in other countries,” she said.
“So the amount of information on its safety will be much, much, much bigger.”
Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Alison Masemann and Ines Colabrese.