Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hepatitis B Vaccinations

We had another early start July 14th and jumped into the group van to head to the village area where we would be testing the children for Hepatitis B and administering vaccines. After driving along the main paved roads, we turned off to a narrow road where we pulled up to a small building. The doctors and nurses were already present as well as a crowd of children most of them with their parents. More were constantly arriving by moped or bicycle.

After supplies such as milk cartons for the kids and gummy treats were unloaded, it was time to get the vaccines started. But first, the kids had to receive their immunization record card. Diep began calling out the names and the kids got their card. From there the kids would first get their blood taken. When the kids got their blood drawn, they would simply stare with wonder at the needle as it sucked out the blood from their arm. There was never tears running down their cheeks or squirming in the chair. After the blood sample was taken, it was tested for Hepatitis B positive or negative. A thin strip of paper was held in the test tube of blood. If two lines appeared in the indicator region on the strip, that indicated that the child had Hepatitis B. If only one line was present, the child did not have Hepatitis B. When a child was positive for Hep B, she or he would go to another room where the doctor would talk to the parents. There was a few kids that tested positive. The parents asked questions like any worried parent would, and the doctors would warn of what the child should avoid, such as drinking alcohol.

If the children tested negative, they would wait to be called into the
vaccination room. In this room, two doctors administered shots so the children came in twos. It was a rare sight to see one the kids squirm or cry when they got their shot. After they received their shot, two VMOers would be seated nearby and give them two vitamin gummy's and Omega 3 gummy's along with a carton of milk. By the time the kids left the room they had hands full with gummy's, milk, an immunization card, and one hand on their arm where the shot had gone in.

While we could not administer the vaccines, draw blood, or test the
blood, there was other ways for us to help. While some of us called out names for immunization cards and managed the crowd, others handed out a candy after the kids got their blood drawn, or a vitamin and milk carton after the vaccination, and others talked and played with the kids while they waited.

As the day went on, the crowd began to disperse as the kids got their examinations. When the last child had left, we took a photo with the doctors, packed up the leftover goodies for the kids, and headed back into the big van. It was one of the rather more rewarding days because we knew that the kids who had received the vaccine would be Hep B free but also a solemn day knowing that some of the kids we had been playing with had been diagnosed with Hep B.

[Out of 100 kids tested for the hep B virus, only 3 failed]

-- submitted by Andrea Luethy, UC Berkeley

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