oral vaccination Caisii Mao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taking Vaccines the Last Mile

No single preventive health intervention is more cost-effective than immunization. And yet, despite significant progress on expanding global immunization, coverage has stalled at about 85% in recent years, which translates into millions of needless deaths.

GHAZIABAD, UTTAR PRADESH – A four-year-old girl recently came to the emergency room where I work as a resident doctor. She was writhing in pain, her body convulsed with seizures. My team and I moved fast to activate seizure protocol, secure her intravenous drip, and deliver all appropriate medications. We then performed a test: I blew air toward her, and she collapsed in pain; I offered her water, and her agony intensified sharply. The diagnosis was clear: she had rabies – and it was too late to save her.

The girl’s family knew that a dog had bitten her, but they had been told that traditional herbs would heal her, so they had delayed taking her to the hospital. She died after less than a day in our care. Had her parents taken her to a hospital immediately for the anti-rabies serum and the appropriate vaccination – she would still be alive. Her grief-stricken mother’s tormented screams still echo in my mind.

As a resident doctor in pediatrics, I am no stranger to death. But watching an innocent child succumb to an ailment that is so easily prevented by a simple intervention takes a severe toll. After all, the little girl I watched die that day was hardly an anomaly.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

or

Register for FREE to access two premium articles per month.

Register

https://prosyn.org/YJP6LZZ