Most of the team this year had been on at least one NID before but as always, there was a certain amount of nervous tension in the air as we assembled in our hotel foyer waiting for our bus to arrive.
Just to ensure that people knew who we were, our driver affixed a banner to the front of the coach - we were amused by the fact that the coach said we were tourists - we were of course nothing of the sort.
The NID was to start at the District Hospital
and as is always the case in India, what might to the inexperienced look like chaos outside was perfectly normal for India.
When we arrived, Polio Vaccine was already being distributed from the hospital,
and Geoff the Polio Bear supervised some leaving on motorbike
in its insulated containers
or being carried by polio workers.
A tent had been set up in front of the hospital
with a banner proclaiming what we were there to do
there were speeches encouraging us all to work hard
Polio Marker pens were found plus the all important bivalent vaccine
and the first official ceremonial vaccine was given to a particularly unlucky child
followed by Geoff being vaccinated yet again.
It was then into the coach and off to our first vaccination station which was on the side of the road in the middle of a nearby suburb of the town.
Initially we were accompanied by a tuk-tuk with a loudspeaker on it to announce we were there to vaccinate. It disappeared however after a short time and was never seen again.
Our technique this year was to flood an area with vaccinators ensuring that every house was visited, every street was gone up and as much noise was made as possible. This should be compared with the technique of earlier years which was to go in threes to a vaccination station and either wait for news of our arrival to get out into the community or to walk around shouting out that we were there.
The reason that Rotarians go to India to vaccinate is because we are unusual and we attract far more children to vaccination booths than is the case if they are staffed only buy local vaccinators.
It was soon obvious that the new technique was very successful because we were mobbed with children and their parents seeking vaccination.
Soon we were swamped with children
and the team spread out into the surrounding streets and houses leading more children back for vaccination.
It surprised me how trusting parents were in letting us take their child to be vaccinated and how willing most children were to come with us.
Our efforts of the previous day were obviously successful because many older brothers and sisters brought their young siblings with them to be vaccinated.
Vaccinating in the streets is an experience unlike anything you will experience elsewhere in the world
and working in unsanitary conditions is the norm for most of the places we go to,
hence we are very careful with our personal hygiene (we also took three different types of antibiotic with us just in case).
A vaccination station is often no more than a table with an insulated box containing the Polio Vaccine.
Sometimes there is also a poster on the wall.
Mothers were often more willing to approach a women for vaccination than a man, hence we tried to ensure that all groups had at least one women in them.
Vaccination is a team task with one person giving the vaccine
and another marking the little finger of the left hand with an indelible purple marker pen
and often the child is given a small present such as a balloon.
Counting how many are vaccinated is either done using a form like this where you cross off the next square on the form or simply counting up the number of vials of Polio Vaccine used - in the hands of a skilled vaccinator, each vial has enough vaccine for 20 children.
At one of our stops, we were assisted by someone who had suffered from Polio as a child and was coming down the street with a loud hailer encouraging parents to bring out their children to be vaccinated so that they did not catch the same disease which he had done.
Lunch was eaten on the run, a snack purchased from a roadside stall. As a general rule, we do not mind eating freshly cooked food if we can see how it has been handled. Salads are an absolute no and drink is also a no unless it is made with freshly boiled water or comes out of a new can or bottle.
When you have lots of people watching you,
encouraging them to come out and be vaccinated is an important part of us being there and sometimes we have to go into hallways or houses to get them out.
As well as the poorer areas, we also visited some of the new high-rise flats occupied by the wealthier Indian middle classes.
For vaccinators they present a very different problem because people often have no idea we are there to vaccinate or cannot be bothered to go out to a vaccination booth - they expect the booth to come to them.
Compare this children’s playground
to this child’s playground some 100 metres away. His parents had a business ironing clothes from a table / shop just outside of the entrance of the gated compound shown above.
We vaccinated over 3000 children on National Immunisation Day - the largest total we have ever achieved.