Vaccination pains for Kenya travel

If you are travelling to any African or South American country, you need to be aware of the vaccination requirements. For Kenya, it is necessary to have vaccination certificate for Polio and Yellow fever. This is very important and should not be ignored as you would either be denied exit from India or entry to the destination country or get quarantined on return at your cost!! This post is to explain the process to get these vaccines in Karnataka, especially Bengaluru.

Polio vaccine
If you are travelling to Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan or Pakistan, it is necessary to undergo a dose of Polio vaccine. India is a polio free country and hence this requirement is set by Indian Government. The fact that every one of us has taken Polio vaccine during our childhood does not matter. We need to take the dose again.

In Bengaluru, the only recognized center that administers polio vaccine for International travellers is at the following address:
Dasappa Hospital,
SJP Road, Opposite to Town Hall,
Bengaluru – 560002
Contact name: Manjula, Phone number: 7760089567

The center is open from 10AM-2PM. Closed on Sundays and other Government Holidays. It is required to take original Passport with you.

My experience
I called up and took appointment for one Saturday. It was a Government Hospital. But I was surprised at the professional behavior of the staff in charge Manjula. The entire process was done in less than 10 minutes and I was given a certificate. It is free service and no one asked for money. There is a need for such people in Government jobs.

The certificate issued is valid for a year. Note that the vaccine needs to be taken at least 4 weeks before the travel.

Also, I understood why children cry on consuming oral vaccine!! It tastes *&%&^%&.

Yellow fever
While it was a pleasant experience at Polio center, the experience was exactly opposite for yellow fever vaccination causing me some anxious moments. To give a background, Yellow fever occurs only in South America and Africa. So the need for vaccination in India arises only for people travelling to those continents. Government has designated “Public health center” in each state to administer this vaccine. Karnataka has only one center in Bangalore. The address is:
Public Health Institute (Opposite to S.J.Polytechnique college)
Near Atria Hotel & Maharani College, K.R Circle, Bangalore-560001, Karnataka, India.

Contact person: Shivaram, Phone number: 080-22210248. 

The vaccine should be taken at least 10 days before travel and is valid for 10 years. It is a multidose vaccine and hence it is administered for a group of 10 people at a time. Vaccine is given only on Wednesday (If Wednesday is holiday, then it is given on Thursday). Appointment through phone should be taken on Monday morning. Person should carry original passport and Air Ticket to get the certificate. The price of the vaccine is Rs 400/-. Government provides subsidy and hence the cost is very less. Looks great so far, right?

My experience
But the devil is in the details. I called the person in charge about 1.5 months before my travel. Lot of people had mentioned about difficulty in reaching his phone but I never faced that issue. When called, he said that the vaccines are not in stock and asked me to call 15 days before my travel. I started getting concerned. But I believed him foolishly. 15 days before I call again and he repeats the same sentence and asks me to come a week before travel. Considering that the vaccine takes 10 days to become effective, this was not practical. Looks like one need to forge the travel dates (A trivial job in e-ticket) to get on time vaccination. Very sad state of affairs in Karnataka.

I was a tensed man on that Monday.  After doing lid lot of research and investigation, I decided to take directly go to the Public health center myself.

I reach at 9AM and already there were few people. They had got appointment and scare me by telling that nothing works without appointment. That was not good news for me but I decided to wait and watch. At 9:45 the guy comes in and announces that only people with appointments to enter and rest to leave the place. “No vaccine and given only to limited people” were his words.  I stand patiently outside waiting for an opportunity. When the crowd around him thins, I go and test my luck. It does not work as he sings the same “No vaccine” song. I then tell that if I bring Single dose vaccine from Pharmacy (It is available in some medical shop. The cost is around Rs 1650/-), can they administer and give me the Yellow certificate. His tone slightly changes and asked me to wait till 12 PM. Looked like there is some hope.

Fifty people had been given appointment. I was wondering why I did not get appointment. It seemed that lot of people came from “Influence quota”. I also find out that they had given vaccines to 100+ people on previous weeks while I was given an explanation of “No vaccines”.

Finally after waiting for 3 hours and pleading relentlessly, I am given the vaccine.

The doctors and nurses were not very professional. They never showed me what they were giving (Ex: Whether the syringe is new or not). I will not be surprised if they inject water instead of vaccine!!

Friends, please plan for these vaccinations if you are going to Africa or South America. The process is not hassle free (for Yellow fever) at least in Karnataka.

There are some private clinics that administer this vaccine and provide certificate. Not sure about the validity of the certificate. They charge around Rs 4,500/-. It is a day light robbery as the single dose vaccine costs RS 1650/-. While I hate Government apathy in providing health support, my aversion to private clinics who loot people taking advantage of Government is even more.

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