Dr Vinod Saksena, one of the country’s longest-serving GPs who worked at The Bowery for many years, is advising people to have their COVID-19 immunisation when it is offered after receiving it himself.
Dr Saksena, a practising SSP Health GP until he was forced to stand down and shield when the pandemic hit, celebrates his 84th birthday on New Year’s Day, and was given the Coronavirus vaccine just before Christmas.
He is urging his patients and others to take up the offer of the vaccine when people are contacted by the NHS.
Dr Saksena welcomed the news that the Oxford vaccine has been approved for use and believes that vaccinations will eventually give people confidence to return to a normal life.
He said: “I was delighted to be given the COVID-19 vaccine and it was a very good experience. People should go ahead and have it and not think twice.
“This vaccine has been proven to be very safe and the chances of any side-effects are so minimal that there is no reason at all for anyone to refuse it.”
Dr Saksena, a GP since 1977, worked at the Bowery Medical Centre and later was a GP visiting care homes and housebound patients across St Helens and Wigan through the Acute Visiting Service for SSP Health, the GP federation his daughter Dr Shikha Pitalia founded in 2002.
He joined the Bowery when it opened in Thatto Heath alongside Dr Louis Crawford. He later worked there with his daughters, Dr Pitalia joining him in 1991 and Dr Ritu Maini arriving in 1994.
Dr Saksena, who achieved the rank of Major and was decorated in the Territorial Army, continues to be a board member of St Helens ROTA, the out of hours service he helped to found in 1980, a scheme which was replicated across the country.
He said: “I enjoy my profession very much and that is why I continued to work, but I decided it was best to put that on hold and self-isolate in March, so as not to become a burden myself on the NHS.
“The vaccination has given me confidence that at some stage I and my wife, Renu, will be able to mix socially again and at that point I will decide whether it is right to return to my clinical work or not.”
Dr Saksena, who lives in Prescot, also founded the St Helens Indo-British Association in the early 1980s, later expanding it to Knowsley and across Liverpool and was given a Citizen of the Year award by Lord Bernard Hogan-Howe for his work in Merseyside on community integration.
He added: “The vaccine has given me, and I am sure the rest of society, a boost in terms of feeling that normal life will return again very soon and we should all be delighted.”