KEY POINTS

  • Dr. Rajendra Kapila got two Pfizer shots in the U.S. before visiting India
  • He suffered from diabetes and heart complications
  • Rutgers called him a “genuine giant in the field of infectious diseases”

Top infectious disease specialist and Rutgers University professor Dr. Rajendra Kapila has died of COVID-19 in India, nearly three weeks after testing positive for the virus. The founding member of the New Jersey Infectious Disease Society had reportedly received two Pfizer shots before heading to India to help care for his family. He was 81.

Dr. Kapila passed away on April 28, ABC News reported, citing the Indian newspaper Hindustan Times. According to the expert’s ex-wife, Dr. Bina Kapila, he visited India for a brief period to see his family amid the devastating COVID-19 surge there. He suffered from diabetes and heart complications, she was cited as saying by WABC.

The Indian daily reported that Dr. Kapila came to India with his wife, Dr. Deepti Saxena-Kapila, in March end and stayed in Ghaziabad. He planned to fly back to the U.S. by the second week of April but was admitted to Delhi’s Shanti Mukund Hospital where he died.

Dr. Kapila’s wife told the Hindustan Times that she and her husband had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the U.S. “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… It is ironic that we came to India for two weeks and he contracted it here,” said Dr. Deepti Saxena-Kapila, who specializes in microbiology.

Pfizer vaccines being prepared for injection at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center in Miami, Florida on April 15, 2021 Pfizer vaccines being prepared for injection at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center in Miami, Florida on April 15, 2021 Photo: AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA

According to Dr. Kapila’s Rutgers biography, he received his medical degree in 1964 at the University of Delhi and completed his residency in India. After moving to the U.S., he worked as an intern, resident, and fellow at a hospital in Newark, New Jersey. He had worked extensively on HIV-AIDS, trained several people in the profession, and practiced at the Rutgers University for 50 years.

Calling him “a genuine giant in the field of infectious diseases,” Rutgers said that Dr. Kapila was “recognized worldwide and sought out for his legendary knowledge and extraordinary clinical acumen in diagnosing and treating the most complex infectious diseases.”

Reacting to the news of Dr. Kapila's demise, Robert A. Schwartz -- a member of U.S. Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and professor and head of dermatology at Rutgers University -- tweeted: “Condolences to the family of Rajendra Kapila, the @RutgersU professor, @CityofNewarkNJ physician, and @USArmy veteran who advocated for the finest healthcare attainable for all. He will be remembered for his unmatched sagacity and conduct exemplarily of the @AOA_society motto. (sic)”

Fully vaccinated people are at a significantly lower risk of contracting the virus and even lower risk of severe COVID-19, ABC News reported. Though it is possible to die from the virus even after being fully inoculated, it's rare. The report further said that out of 105 million fully vaccinated people in the U.S., about 70 COVID-19 deaths have been reported. The vaccinated people who died were older and frail, with several medical conditions.