Despite her sleep filled eyes, one-year-old Monika knew an important decision was being made on her behalf. Her parents, Nagaraj and Dhanalakshmi, who she was clinging to as she practised her walk at the Besant Nagar bus terminus, were consulting Chennai Corporation health workers about the polio drops she had to be administered.
“If she has fever, then it is better you consult a doctor before giving her the drops,” advised E.Anandan, a health worker at the ‘Polio Booth' – an icebox containing the vaccines on top of a plastic stool. Her parents, agreeing with the sound advice, decided to consult a private doctor nearby. “We want to be careful about giving her the vaccines when she is running a temperature,” said Mr.Nagaraj, a resident of Kakkan Colony adjoining the bus terminus.
“By 1 p.m., we had administered the vaccine to 120 children,” said Mr.Anandan, pointing at a sheet of paper with printed numbers that were crossed out.
Outside the 24-hour Corporation Hospital in Adyar, 58-year-old V.Ramaswamy, an auto driver, was running after his grandson to force him to eat his lunch. For three days, his auto's speakers have been blaring messages about the pulse polio immunisation day. “I am paid Rs.600 per day to drive around the entire zone,” says this resident of Neelankarai.
At the Central Railway Station, there was an unspoken air of competition, as health workers of the Medical Department of Southern Railway, seemed to have most exits manned as they intercepted parents' with toddlers and directed them to the booths.
“During festive seasons, the numbers are a lot more. The crowd is less today,” said S.Vijaykumar, a chief pharmacist with the Southern Railway. About 228 children had been vaccinated by mid-afternoon at his booth. “The Moore Market Complex booth has clocked in a lot more.”
Stationed between two suburban lines, the booth at the Moore Market Complex was bustling with activity as health officers pulled out a fresh sheet of paper to continue their tally. K.Senthil Kumar, a health officer, cupped the cheeks of children and administered the drops quickly - some made faces, some continued to sleep.
During the second phase of pulse polio immunisation campaign on Sunday, a total of around 4,41,050 children below the age of five years were administered polio drops.
(With inputs from R. Sujatha)