Vaccinated American doctor dies after travelling to India to help with Covid, say reports

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Dr Rajendra Kapila, an infectious disease expert at New Jersey’s Rutgers University (ABC6 News)
Dr Rajendra Kapila, an infectious disease expert at New Jersey’s Rutgers University (ABC6 News)

An American doctor who died of Covid-19 after travelling to India to care for family members was fully vaccinated with two Pfizer-BioNTech shots, his wife has reportedly confirmed.

Dr Rajendra Kapila, an infectious disease expert at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, died in a New Delhi hospital on 28 April aged 81, The Hindustan Times reported.

Quoting his widow, Dr Deepti Saxena-Kapila, the paper reported Mr Kapila had received both doses of the vaccine in the US before the couple travelled to India in the last week of March.

“For the last one year I have been working at a Covid-19 lab in New Jersey and had ensured a safe environment at home,” said Dr Saxena-Kapila, who specialises in microbiology.

“It is ironic that we came to India for two weeks and he contracted it here.”

His ex-wife, Dr Bina Kapila, confirmed in an interview with ABC News that Dr Kapila, who had underlying conditions of diabetes and heart complications, travelled to India to care for his family.

"He was so brilliant when we were in college, in medical school, that the professors of medicine after they gave a lecture, they would come to him and ask him, ‘did I cover everything?’" she said.

"What can go wrong in one week? So he was only going to go for one week."

Watch: US backs vaccine patent waiver as India sees record Covid deaths

TheTimes reported that Dr Kapila had planned to return to the US in mid-April but tested positive for Covid-19 on 8 April before he was admitted to Delhi’s Shanti Mukund Hospital, where he died 20 days later.

“Whenever Dr Kapila visited India, he would deliver lectures to fellow doctors at major private hospitals in the city and never said ‘no’ to an opportunity to teach,” said Dr Ruby Bansal, of India’s Yashoda Super Speciality Hospital at Kaushambi, told The Hindustan Times.

Rutgers University professor, and chair of the department of medicine, Dr Marc Klapholz sent an email to colleagues later shared online saying Dr Kapila was a foundational pillar of the New Jersey Medical School for 50 years.

"A genuine giant in the field of infectious diseases, Dr Kapila was recognised worldwide and sought out for his legendary knowledge and extraordinary clinical acumen in diagnosing and treating the most complex infectious diseases," the email said. " He will be deeply and genuinely missed."

India’s tally has risen to more than 20.6 million positive cases since the start of the pandemic, with the Health Ministry reporting on Wednesday 3,780 new deaths for a total of 226,188 in the country, according to the Associated Press.

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