Equality campaigner, 87, delighted to be among first patients to get vaccine

An 87-year-old race relations campaigner has said he is “delighted to be doing my bit” as he prepares to become one of the first people in the world to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr Hari Shukla, from Tyne and Wear, will receive the Pfizer jab at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle at 8am along with his wife Ranjan after getting a call from his doctor last week.

The grandfather-of-nine, who has a “Local Hero” plaque in his honour on the city’s quayside, said: “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.

“I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help.”

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Investitures at Buckingham Palace

Dr Shukla, who was made an MBE in 2003 and a CBE in 2016, played an important role improving race relations in the North East as director of the Tyne and Wear Racial Equality Council.

He was born in Kenya, where his father had moved from Bombay to work on railways, and went on to study at Exeter University before moving to Newcastle in 1974, according to an online biography.

Dr Shukla added: “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.”

Dr Shukla told the Newcastle Chronicle he hopes “everybody will participate” in the immunisation programme to help get the country “back to next to normal”.

He told the paper: “I have been following the news and our scientists have done a wonderful job.

“We will reunite with family when we are allowed to do that, at the moment we are in the lockdown.

“We are not going to rush into it.”

Dr Shukla has his name on a bronze plaque embedded in the pavement along the Newcastle Gateshead Quayside and wrote a book about how the city overcame racial tensions called The Art Of Giving.