Dr Vinay Raniga’s message for British Indians: The NHS vaccines are completely safe

Dr Vinay Raniga’s message for British Indians: The NHS vaccines are completely safe

As part of our Frontline Series, ‘iGlobal’ this time catches up with Dr Vinay Raniga BDS, Founder of Dentify, an education organisation helping young dentists on their career path.

Launched in 2018, it teaches young dentists about leadership, clinical governance, and communication related to their national recruitment exams. Under Dr Raniga’s guidance, the organisation has taught over 600 young dentists and students, with over 10,000 joining their webinars during the course of the first lockdown in March 2020.

Dr. Raniga is also a Public Policy and Government Affairs Consultant at {my}dentist, the U.K. largest provider of NHS dental care. He is passionate about influencing policy as he understands that, that can create change to help millions gain access to the dental care they need.

The 27-year-old British Indian, based at Northwick Park Hospital in North-West London, was working in the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department as a Dental Core Trainee, a postgraduate role reserved for those interested in the speciality, prior to his re-deployment. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Dr Raniga and a team of six were given the option to serve in the ICU and join the National Health Service (NHS) frontline.

Working alongside medical doctors and nurses in the ICU, the majority of the work he undertakes is being part of a proning team; proning being a technique that can be used to oxygenate the lungs of patients intubated. On his decision to join the frontline, he shares: “It came down to duty and the values that I grew up with as a British Indian. Doing the right thing, helping others, and doing public service is very important to me. I’ve always grown up with the mentality that you have to serve others, because that is what brings fulfilment. There is nothing better than helping someone get better.”

He continued, “As a Hindu, I have always been pushed along the path that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing in your day as long as it's related to service and helping others. That should always be the mood and motivation. If you have that intention you will always make the right decision."

As one of the first frontline workers to have received his Covid-19 vaccine, here he gives some insight into aspects such as vaccine safety, coping mechanisms during the lockdown, and balancing his spiritual side with his professional life.

Q: Can you please share your experience of getting the vaccine?

A: My New Year’s resolution was fulfilled when on January 1, I got the Pfizer vaccine at Northwick Park Hospital. The process was very safe and clean, it was just a small scratch in my arm and the whole process was completed.

Concerning the side effects, I had a heavy arm, which is normal with most vaccines, a headache, and some night sweats which is not uncommon. I was fatigued for a few days, but that is a normal side effect as your body should be reacting to the vaccine. The experience was like any other vaccine – it is completely safe, evidence-based, and easy to administer.

Q: What is your message to those in the community who may have doubts about getting vaccinated?

A: We live in a post-truth era, where the trust in politicians is low, the trust in experts is low and trust in independent science is low because many think there must be some ulterior reason behind most things. However, in terms of the vaccines approved by the government, they are backed up with scientific-literature and clinical trials which have not been rushed.

As a British Indian, we have grown up to follow the science in all spheres of life. Never succumb to blind faith or blind doubt; always question why, which I believe is a healthy outlook. I recommend all South Asians to make an informed choice but read the scientific literature first. If it is confusing, speak to someone in the scientific community that you trust to explain the vaccine to you, rather than listening to a Facebook posts or a WhatsApp messages.

The ICU I work at has many South Asian people. The literature shows that South Asians and minority ethnic groups are worse effected by the virus, so it is important we take the vaccine.

Some myths I also wanted to clear up about the vaccine include that GPs are making a lot of money from the Covid vaccination. When in fact GPs are making £12.50 per injection on average, and most of them will make a loss from this and they won’t make a profit. There is no profit incentive for people to give the vaccine, it is just to help the nation get back on its feet.

Another doubt is whether the Covid vaccines are suitable for vegetarians or contain beef or pork; both the Pfizer vaccine and AstraZeneca jabs being administered by the NHS are completely free from animal products.

Lastly, there is another myth that vaccines are being used to chip and track the population. Vaccines do not contain any chips, trackers, or surveillance. Independent authorities assess these vaccines, and their only benefit is to protect you from this life-threatening virus.

Q: What are some of the coping mechanisms that help you balance the extra work pressures, stress, and tragedy through the pandemic?

A: From a young age I have been used to working hard. My university, schooling, and family values have pushed me towards that. There are things that I have to balance, that is getting seven-eight hours of sleep daily, eating the right foods, and exercising. The more you do, the more you will need to optimise those personal aspects of your life.

Maintaining my religious and spiritual values is very important to me. Reading spiritual literature, speaking to friends and meditation are the three things that I do not sacrifice throughout my day. I believe it is important to have a daily practice that keeps you grounded to your values.

Q: What have been some memorable moments during the course of the crisis since last year?

A: From the first wave, some of the memorable moments was seeing the ICU nurses in action because they are working really hard. There was one ICU nurse who was seven months’ pregnant, and she was still working in the ICU. I asked her, “Are you not scared to come to work?”

She replied with a laugh, “If I don’t come to work no one else will and then who will look after these patients? Of course, I am concerned, but if my relatives were sick, I would expect NHS nurses to show up and care.”

Another memorable moment was seeing a patient that we treated for a month, waking up and then going home. It was good to know that we were making a difference.

And the “Clap for Carers” that used to happen every Thursday. It was quite nice to be appreciated, and seeing your senior colleagues and nurses appreciated. I would also like to give a big appreciation to the London Northwest University Healthcare NHS Trust. They were at the epicentre of the virus in the first wave. There is definitely a great team leading that hospital.

Q: What would be your message to those considering a career with the NHS?

A: The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world, and it is a huge organisation. You are working in an organisation which has a sole duty to care for people. If you are that type of person who wants to go into that line of work and care for the people, it is something that I highly recommended.

I also encourage to introspect and gain work experience to really understand what a career in the NHS entails. Whilst I may talk about it as an amazing experience, it's not as romantic as you think it is all the time. You have to know what you want and develop resilience to survive the bad days.

I would 100% recommend that if you are looking for a career in the NHS, do your research and there are many different career paths you can go into.

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