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Polio Today, Immunization Today

Quote. The trainer should request the participants to identify and list local influencers in the areas [such as] village pradhans, councilors, religious leaders, medical practitioners, moneylenders, anganwadi workers, grocery store owners, traditional birth attendants, local dias, prominent youth, popular teachers, etc. End Quote. Vaccinator Training Manual section on how to get support for National Immunization Days, India, 2001

Nearly all of the vaccine used in the global campaign is the oral live virus form associated with Albert Sabin. The advantages of oral polio vaccine are that the drops are much cheaper than injected vaccine and do not require highly trained medical personnel to administer every dose. One doctor or nurse can supervise many volunteers, making it possible to carry out massive vaccinations. These countrywide campaigns are called National Immunization Days and occur on two days about six weeks apart.

Left photo. Man writing on old wooden door as woman walks past
Right photo. A black nurses bag
Left: Vaccinator marking door with chalk Courtesy of Jean-Marc Giboux, photographer
Right: Nurse’s bag used in Tunisia, 1969–70 Courtesy of Roberta Poulton, RN
Left photo. Three girls holding up pinky fingers marked with green ink
Right photo. Four boys holding up pinky fingers marked with green ink
Left: Children with fingers marked with ink, Ethiopia Courtesy of Jean-Marc Giboux, photographer
Right: Children with fingers marked with ink, Ethiopia Courtesy of Jean-Marc Giboux, photographer

During a National Immunization Day, vaccinators mark the left pinky finger of every child with indelible ink, to keep track of who has received the vaccine drops. In Brazil, an imaginary character, “Little Drop,” is used to ease children’s fears about vaccination.

Left photo. A variety of items used by Rotary volunteers
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Right photo. Mr. and Mrs. Drop with a group of kids
Left: Caps, vest, armband worn by Rotary International volunteers and silk banner used to advertise the coming National Immunization Day Courtesy of Rotary International
Right: “Little Drop” characters used in Brazil to appeal to children on vaccination days Courtesy of Programa Nacional de Imunizacoes do Ministerio da Saude
Children marching and holding up signs in a National Immunization Day parade. In front of historical Nepalese buildings.
National Immunization Day parade, Nepal Courtesy of Jean-Marc Giboux, photographer

Medical Diplomacy
At times, National Immunization Days have occurred during civil wars, making the vaccinators’ work dangerous. This happened in Peru, El Salvador, and Angola. In each case, cease-fires, called Days of Tranquility, were negotiated to allow the vaccinators safe passage.

“On one occasion, one of our epidemiologists who was leading a team of vaccinators was returning from the field at the end of the day and was caught by a group of guerilla fighters. Initially, he was terrified, but then he realized that they wanted the team to return to a village that was left without vaccination.”
—Dr. Ciro de Quadros, on El Salvador’s Days of Tranquility, 1997

Left image. Poster with a variety of photographs showing immunization work and text stating, Polioplus Nigeria, Meeting the Challenge
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Right image. Poster with a man and a baby receiving a polio vaccination
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Left: International polio campaign poster from Nigeria Courtesy of Rotary International
Right: International polio campaign poster from India Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On a single day, January 21, 2001, 150 million children under five years of age in India were immunized.

Photo of a group of children

Children wearing vaccinators’ caps and T-shirts Courtesy of Jean-Marc Giboux, photographer

Photo of volunteer vaccinators

Volunteer vaccinators, Moradabad, India Courtesy of Jean-Marc Giboux, photographer

Poster with text stating, For a Polio-Free Sierra Leone. Take every child under five years for a free polio marklate on National Immunization Days
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International polio campaign poster from Sierra Leone Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Follow the Drop comic strip
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Follow the Drop

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