by Sumedha Sircar
1955 was an eventful year. It saw major political pacts and movements including the one Rosa Parks started by refusing to give up her bus seat. And of course, the first Disneyland was opened that year. But few would argue that the most important event to transpire in 1955 was the release of the first successful polio vaccine. Now, the lives of hundreds of thousands of children could be spared from this terrible malady that forever altered the lives of an inordinate number of people and families across the globe.
Efforts to vaccinate people against polio began for the first time in 1978 in India. In seven short years, the vaccination programme managed to cover all the districts of our country. And then, despite numerous difficulties and oftentimes fierce opposition the programme faced (people genuinely believed that the vaccine caused sterility), it proceeded to eradicate polio in our country by 2014.
So when the Editorial Board got a chance to cover the Pulse Polio Drive organised by KMC’s Department of Community Medicine, we were naturally very excited to view how the venerated programme that successfully eradicated a disease from a country of our size worked firsthand.
The drive, supervised by WHO, was held across twenty five booths in and around Udupi on 2 April 2017. There were volunteers from KMC and MCON, as well as a member from the Department of Community Medicine in each centre. Booths opened at 8am and stayed open until 5pm, with one shift change at noon. Students from KMC were posted at Tiger Circle, KSRTC Bus Stand, Udupi City Bus Stand, Udupi Railway Station, Karavali Hotel, and a mobile unit which traveled to regions which typically had poor vaccination rates, like construction sites and slums. Children between 1 to 5 years of age were given oral polio drops irrespective of their previous vaccination status. Around 900 children in total were given oral polio drops over the course of the day.
One could truly admire the dedication of the volunteers as they administered the vaccine to child after child, spirits undampened despite being rendered sweaty by the moist heat and working in temperatures that soared to nearly 40 degrees Celsius.
The Editorial Board’s thoughts go out to the innumerable people who have fought and continue to help fight this disease even today.
Sumedha Sircar is a second year student at KMC Manipal, working in the college’s Editorial Board as a writer. Her interests span from Second World War based fiction to Stanley Kubrick movies to John Oliver, and almost everything in between. A social media dinosaur (the point of Snapchat is lost on her), Sumedha is nevertheless creepily well-informed of college gossip. She can often be found finishing record work she despises and listening to Shostakovich -whom she recently discovered much to her delight and much to her neighbours’ dismay. Approach her if you want to geek out about great movies, books, conspiracy theories or watch the stars. Be warned through, she will claw your eyes out if you make the mistake of approaching her when she’s sleepy.