Higher turnout in rural areas

MASSIVE CAMPAIGN: A child being administered polio drops in Chennai on Sunday.

MASSIVE CAMPAIGN: A child being administered polio drops in Chennai on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: M. VEDHAN

M. Dinesh Varma

Officials worried over lack of enthusiasm in urban centres

CHENNAI: Rural mothers in the State on Sunday showed far greater voluntary spirit than many urban counterparts in taking their children to polio booths during Phase II of the nationwide Pulse Polio campaign.

Health officials, while expressing an overall satisfaction at the programme of administering oral vaccine to 66.09 lakh out of the targeted 70 lakh children in the 0-5 age group, appeared worried over the lack of enthusiasm shown by parents in a few urban centres such as Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai.

In fact, nothing brought out the rural-urban contrast sharper than that while Mannavanur in Kodaikanal – regarded in health circles as perhaps the remotest PHC in the State – recorded cent per cent coverage by 2 p.m, developed centres such as Coimbatore achieved only 78.9 per cent (coverage during the December round of immunisation here was over 97 per cent).

At this stage, however, officials were not willing to attribute the reluctance of urban parents to residual fears over the safety of the vaccines administered in a State where rumour-mongering broke out after a few infants who were given immunisation died during the December round of the programme.

S. Elango, Director of Public Health, told The Hindu that for the first time in perhaps the last 14 years of the programme, there had been a change in the pattern of booth visits.

While it has been customary in the State for the immunisation levels to cross 60 per cent by noon and almost reach 100 per cent around noon, for some reason the arrivals were staggered over the day. However, whether this is because mothers wanted to wait and ensure that there were no adverse reports is anybody’s guess, he said.

Mop-up exercise

Over the next three days beginning Monday, healthworkers would undertake household visits under a mop-up exercise to reach out to children who missed out on Phase II schedule.

The Health department had engaged about 2 lakh staff at 40,399 booths and distributed an estimated 90 lakh units of oral vaccines. Health centres in the hilly terrains were provided stocka day in advance of the programme.

In Chennai, and the suburbs, about 82 per cent children below the age of 5 were covered.

Children who were missed out on Sunday would be given oral drops in the next couple of days. Corporation officials said. Health workers will go door-to-door and check for the dye on the child’s finger and administer the vaccine, they said.

Until 5 p.m. on Sunday, a total of 4,23,135 children were covered in the programme. Mayor M. Subramanian who launched the campaign at the Teynampet primary health centre at 7 a.m., said a total of 1,126 booths were set up at bus stands and railway stations to cover an estimated 4,92,944 children. About 4,500 health workers and anganwadi workers besides 5,000 persons from non-governmental organisations participated in the programme.

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