Glimpses of polio immunization in Côte d’Ivoire

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By Stuart Cleland, a producer in RI’s Broadcast Media Department

Our trip to observe the National Immunization Days in Côte d’Ivoire is now a blur of early starts; long car rides through traffic jams; missed lunches; intense interviews with Rotarians and their Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners including the Ivorian minister of health and top people at WHO, UNICEF and the Red Cross. And then, beginning on 26 April, the real work: NID vaccinators (some of them Rotarians and Rotaractors) carefully administering two drops of vaccine to every child five and under.

A few examples: On 28 April we met National PolioPlus Commission President Marie-Irène Richmond Ahoua and a group of Rotarians in Mossikro, a steep hillside slum not far from downtown Abidjan. We followed them as they climbed from house to house dispensing polio vaccine as, in the distance, modern high-rises gleamed.

Then we shifted north to the riverside hamlet of Adjin, where Marie-Irène and visiting Rotarians, Rotaractors, and vaccinators were greeted by the village chief in full regalia, a singing/drumming band, speeches, and finally, more dosing.

Earlier we had followed the vaccinators into shantytowns, crowded markets, fishing villages, bus stations – anywhere and everywhere that they could find and immunize children. The work was hot, humid, and tiring, but they stuck to it, methodically dispensing polio vaccine, Vitamin A, and deworming pills, and keeping careful record of their progress. Across an entire country they immunized more than 3 million children. And every child went away sporting a purple fingernail – proof that he or she was protected from poliomyelitis.

The main purpose of our trip was to capture iconic photo and video images for Rotary’s PolioPlus campaign. One standout is that of a young vaccinator riding from village to  village on a Rotary-donated bike, wearing an NID T-shirt and PolioPlus cap, and carrying a vaccine cooler. That shot captures the motivation, the commitment, and the energy that PolioPlus and its partners have mobilized as they – as we – enter the polio eradication endgame.

Source: Rotary Voices

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