By Radhika Srivastava
Until recently, vaccination efforts in the villages of Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh were hindered by the logistics of the vaccine delivery system, and the repeated use of glass syringes that left many needles blunt, making the vaccination experience very painful for the children.
But the scene is changing. A UNICEF-supported programme to boost immunisation against preventable diseases in Saharanpur has introduced new “auto-disable” syringes and a new vaccine delivery system. These measures have substantially increased the number of children vaccinated. Compared with 40,600 vaccinations in April last year, about 64,400 children were vaccinated in April this year – an increase of over 50 per cent.
The auto-disable feature of the new syringes means these cannot be used again after one shot. Mothers are coming in greater numbers to get their babies inoculated. An improved vaccine delivery system means vaccines are packed in cold boxes to guard their effectiveness, and are sent to the vaccination centres every morning, sparing the front line health workers, who run the vaccination centres, the harassment of spending hours on public transport to move the vaccines from the public health centres to the villages.
A UNICEF-supported programme to boost immunisation against preventable diseases in Saharanpur has introduced new “auto-disable” syringes and a new vaccine delivery system.
Shahnaz Bano, a resident of Thaska village and mother of one-and-a half-year old Shakir said, “The new syringes are far better than the ones used earlier. The old syringes had very thick needles and I remember how Shakir cried and cried when pricked with those needles. Earlier I would hesitate to bring him for vaccination.’’
A Public Health Centre doctor expressed his appreciation for the new syringes. He said, “Before we received the auto-disposable syringes from UNICEF, we were using glass syringes that would have to be boiled and sterilised after every use. Repeated use also left many needles blunt, making the experience very painful.”
There are now four vehicles that efficiently transport vaccines from the main Public Health Centre to the community level vaccination centers in the area.. “This ensures that the vaccines remain securely stored in cool temperatures”
But with the new syringes in place now, mothers flock to the vaccination centre every Wednesday and Saturday, bringing along their children. The vaccination sessions begin early and most children are vaccinated and sent home by noon before the searing heat sets in. “A trust is built when the child goes away happily or after a minor cry,” said the doctor.
The immunization programme has improved considerably. Suman Lata, in charge of the vaccination centre in Thaska village, said, “Earlier, I would dread holding a vaccination session. On a vaccination day, I would have to visit the Public Health Centre in the morning and then carry the vaccination boxes back to the village. To do so, I needed to change two buses and finally walk about three kilometres in the heat.’’ It took all of three hours to get the vaccine to the village. ``The vaccination session would start only after 11 am and soon it would become so hot that very few mothers and children would come to get their shots,’’ she said.
But the new initiative has taken the pressure off Suman Lata, as the job of vaccine transportation has been taken off Suman Lata and other health workers. “Now, I simply come to the village and by 8.30 a.m. , a vehicle brings the vaccine box to my centre. Thus, I am able to begin the vaccination session immediately,” she said. There are now four vehicles that efficiently transport vaccines from the main Public Health Centre to the community level vaccination centers in the area.. “This ensures that the vaccines remain securely stored in cool temperatures,” said a UNICEF Health Officer.