Today is National Immunisation Day and we will be some of the 2.5 million vaccinators across India who will be vaccinating any children they come across. It has been said for years that having Rotarians at vaccination booths improves the attendance rate and certainly personal experience tells me that this is true. However this year the Indian Government has said “We keep hearing this so let us try to prove it by sending Rotarians to areas where response has been dropping”.
So we are sent to Moradabad, a city which has a significant Muslim population and a city where achieving the required response rate has proved difficult for the past few years. The 15 of us are divided into 5 groups and we are driven into the city and dropped off at various locations.
Our booth is on one of the main streets in town and it is a tent erected on the pavement. Not a lot is happening when we get there so we decide to take a very high profile interventionist approach by going out and finding children in the passing traffic.
Despite the traffic being very busy,
I go out
into the middle of the road
and try to stop every vehicle going by to look for children. “Every" means anything that is moving including: taxis, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, cars, bicycles i.e. everything.
In india it seems to be the norm to drive in both directions on both sides of the road and hence traffic comes at us from all directions.
One has to assume that they will miss us rather than us having to get out of the way of them. Our Indian hosts express a certain amount of concern for our safety but by now we have gained sufficient confidence to enable us to work without worry (well, not too many of them).
The only vehicles I have difficulty in stopping are those pulled by an ox or a donkey - they do not seem to understand the power of Rotary and tend to keep moving straight at you.
The drivers usually have no inclination to stop, perhaps having no brakes is the reason.
As soon as I spot a child of the correct age group (0 to 5),
the vehicle is pointed out to the vaccinators and they rush over, check that the child has not already been vaccinated and try to ascertain its age (holding five fingers up) and then vaccinate.
The numbers of children being carried on motorbikes is astonishing and they are vaccinated in-situ.
If they are in a Tuk-Tuk, they are vaccinated inside it. Pat became particularly skilful at this
and very few escaped from her without being vaccinated.
Even if you are on a bus, you checked and get vaccinated - here Totan Nguyen from Kettering Huxloe Rotary Club is vaccinating a slightly less than willing child.
The guidelines say that to achieve immunity in an area (known as herd immunity), 95% of all children need to be vaccinated so we cannot afford to let many escape.
A few are quite cooperative and accept their fate without complaint.
Others are not so happy about it.
Most children are then given a balloon and a lucky few get a prized face mask.
By 2 pm, not only are we exhausted but also most of the children we are finding come displaying the Purple Pinkie mark, either because they have already passed by our booth or because they have been caught at another vaccination station in the town.
So we stop for lunch and a rest before this evenings meeting with the Rotary Club of Moradabad East - our hosts for this event.
Between us, the Moradabad team vaccinated approximately 2000 children today. As is always the case, Rotarians made a real difference by being there.