An effort for every child

Getting one vaccine to one child takes an enormous effort.

Brian Alfred Boye
Heena Joshi [Left], is an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife seen here on a routine home visit.
21 April 2021

The numbers are staggering.

India’s immunization programme has been around since 1978*. Now known as the Universal Immunization Programme, it aims to vaccinate 27 million newborns with all primary doses and 100+ million children aged 1-5 years with booster doses every year. Some 30 million pregnant women are also given their TT [Tetanus] vaccination as part of the programme. Over 10 million immunization sessions are conducted and over 27,000 cold chain facilities have been set up across the length and breadth of the country. India also happens to be the largest producer of vaccines in the world, taking care of its own needs and exporting to other nations as well. Now in 2021 India is also leading the COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

A UNICEF consultant does supportive supervision at a vaccine management facility.
Keval Pandya, a UNICEF consultant does supportive supervision at a vaccine management facility at Baria District Hospital

With an operation of such scale, it takes a significant effort to deliver just one immunization shot to one child.

Routine immunization consists of eight vaccines. Once these vaccines are procured, they are packaged and sent according to World Health Organization [WHO] guidelines for vaccines and biologicals.

Polio vaccine being transported by camel in Uttar Pradesh.
Polio vaccine being transported by camel in Uttar Pradesh

Transportation of the vaccine via multiple ways – either by car or bike, on foot or by boat, by a rope bridge or even domesticated animals. To keep the vaccine cool during transportation, the vaccines are packed in polyurethane boxes, with ice packs.

A training being conducted for health workers in Gujarat.
A UNICEF consultant training Primary Health Centre staff, Anganwadi Workers and Frontline Health Workers in Dahod, Gujarat

Another essential aspect of the immunization programme is capacity building of health workers. Training of Trainers are conducted on a large scale throughout India to ensure that those on the frontline are well informed with knowledge to share with parents. This is particularly important when conducting immunization sessions in villages and communities where resistance and fear against immunization still persist.

A nurse talks to a young mother at her home in Bihar
Ritu Rani [in white], an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife [ANM], talks with young mothers inside an Anganwadi Centre in Bihar.

After all this, it finally comes down to the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs). These tireless, fearless and determined frontline workers will stop at nothing to make sure a child is immunized. ANMs like Ritu are the heartbeat of the Universal Immunization Programme.

The many hours, the manual labour, the time dedicated and personal hardships, all of this effort is so that every child has the best possibility to live and healthy life.