Vagaries of vaccination

Vagaries of vaccination

“Sir, I have good news! We are going to Africa on office work next month. Have you been vaccinated against yellow fever?” asked my colleague. I replied in the negative. “Sir, without a certificate showing that you are vaccinated against yellow fever, you can’t get your visa,” he said. I countered saying that when I have visited Egypt and South Africa without a vaccination, why I should get one now.

“Since Western Africa is prone to infections, you must be vaccinated. It is for your own safety,” he reasoned.  My colleague then took me to a government facility where the vaccine was administered only once a week. There was a long queue of people. He pulled some strings and took me straight to the doctor. The doctor asked me the name of the country I was to visit. I blurted the name. He looked at a long list of countries and told me that I needed the oral polio vaccine (OPV) as well, which I could get from any hospital in Bengaluru. While administering the yellow fever vaccine, the doctor told me that I should expect body ache and fever and in the occurrence of the same, I must report to him. I nodded my head and came back.

Two days later my colleague took me to a paediatrician for the OPV. As I entered the doctor’s chamber, she looked at me and asked, “Where is your grandchild?” I told her that he is sleeping at home. She growled, “Why are you wasting my time? Bring your grandchild!”

My colleague butted in and told her that it was I who needed to be given the OPV. She said, “Never in my 30-year long career have I given OPV to a senior citizen,” and refused to administer the drops. My colleague showed her the letter from the Embassy which mandated that visa applicants be given an OPV. At this time, another doctor entered and a discussion ensued between the doctors.

The younger one said that the OPV is given only to small kids and old hags like me should be given injectable polio vaccine. I asked him the difference. He said that OPV contains live bacteria and there is one in a million chance of getting polio due to live bacteria, I must therefore take IPV. I agreed and asked to be given IPV. The senior paediatrician said that they have only OPV in stock.

I turned my back and started walking away. My colleague forced me to sit saying, “No OPV, No Africa”. He made me open my mouth and asked the doctor to administer the drops. I had a very funny taste in my mouth.

Ten days later, I developed severe body ache and low temperature. I feared that I had contracted either polio or yellow fever and was nervous. I rushed to my physician who reassured me that I have a simple viral fever and put me on antibiotics. After recuperating at home for a week, I went back to office.

My colleague greeted me with announce that our African trip had been cancelled. The funny taste of OPV still lingered in my mouth.

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