Ex-doctor and South Tyneside community champion urges residents not to pass up the opportunity to get vaccinated against Covid
Dr Shobha Srivastava MBE, who worked for a number of years as a consultant anaesthetist at South Tyneside District Hospital, told The Gazette she had her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine a fortnight ago and is due to receive her second jab on Friday, January 8.
The Government has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the UK and said it would begin to be rolled out imminently.
The Pfizer vaccine was judged safe for UK approval at the beginning of December and its national rollout got underway later on this month. However, concerns have been raised over the past fortnight around distribution of the vaccine’s initial batches to frontline NHS staff at the borough’s hospital trust.
In light of the new, more infectious strain of the virus first identified in South-East England which has caused UK infection rates to soar once again, Dr Srivistava has urged residents not to pass up on the opportunity to acquire immunisation against the highly-infectious virus.
"Number one, it is absolutely safe,” she said.
"There are very few side effects and very few people get them. As far as I was concerned, I only had a sore arm and a little swelling just after the injection was given – and nothing more than that.
"And the majority of other people who I spoke to, who were there at the centre with me that day, said they felt practically nothing.”
Dr Srivastava, who was awarded an MBE in 2017 for her work championing healthcare in the borough as well as wider community service, said she understood a number of her neighbours in South Shields have been expressing doubts over the efficacy of the two vaccines approved for use in the country.
Conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccines have spread like wildfire during the pandemic months, with a number questioning the reports and studies pointing to the success rates of the two vaccines approved by the Government thus far.
Seeking to address the misinformation spread by such theories, Dr Srivastava added: “I have met people and I have also read lots of people in the region on social media who are saying ‘This isn’t going to work’ and ‘That the population is going to be wiped out’ and things like that.
“The only problem with the vaccine that I am aware of is that not enough volunteers were tested before it was given out to everybody.
“However, they found very few side effects in the people they tested and that at least 80 percent who received it had an antibody response.
"Therefore I believe very firmly that people should get the vaccine if they’re offered it and hopefully it is the vaccine that is going to stop the virus.
"Researchers are also saying that it should work on this [newly-identified Covid] strain, also. So I firmly believe that residents who are offered the vaccine should accept it and hopefully this will help put a stop to what this terrible virus has been doing so far.”