Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Of Government Hospitals and Yellow Fever vaccination

Ok let me get the rules & regulations out of the way first before i proceed with this post. When you arrive at an Indian airport and have passed through the list of countries given below, you are required to have a Yellow fever vaccination certificate, in the absence of which you will be quarantined at the airport for 6 days. For some backpackers (and they come in all varieties) this could be a great opportunity for a free stay but somehow spending 6 days at the airport in a hospital is not really my idea of fun.

List of Countries:
Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire), Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan (South of 15 ° N), Togo, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia.

Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Panama.

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is also listed as one of the requisites while applying for a Bolivian visa though reading peoples comments on online forums tells me that you would have to be really unlucky to be denied a visa if you are from the US, UK or some such nation and dont possess this certificate. However, its always better to be in possession of such documents rather than take a risk of being turned back in the middle of your trip by an overzealous bureaucrat.

Anyway given the possibility of being denied a Bolivian visa and having to spend 6 days quarantined at Delhi airport; getting myself a Yellow fever shot & certificate was high on my To-Do list once i got my visas done for Chile & Peru.

With 2 weekends to go before we left for the trip, on a sunny, muggy & hot Saturday afternoon i googled "Yellow Fever Vaccination, Delhi" to realize that it is possible to get the shots only from 4 places in Delhi.

These locations for Delhi are:
Health Organization
Palam Airport
Timings: Tue. And Thursday. 1400 - 1600 hrs Tel: 2329 5507

Public Health Laboratory
Municipal Corporation, Town Hall, Alipur Road
Timings: Fri :1000 - 1200 hrs Tel: 2397 2058

Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital
Room No. 7 & 8
Timings: Wed & Sat 0900 to 1230 hrs Tel: 2336 5525

International Inoculation Center
Mandir Marg, New Delhi - 110001
Timings: Wed & Fri : 1330 to 1400 hrs Tel: 2336 2284

On top of the specific dates & timings (with the absence of the option to get the shot on a Sunday) i also came to know that the certificate is considered valid 10 days AFTER getting the shot. Considering the amount of work that needed to be done at work, i figured that next Saturday (8th Aug) was the earliest i could get the shot and if the guy at the Bolivian Embassy got too technical with the 10 days i figured i had a buffer of 3 days since i planned to enter Bolivia on the 22nd of August. An iota of doubt though still remained since we planned to apply for the visa on 17th August in Santiago and that was enough to send me into panic mode.

Enter Pooja to smooth things over as she very calmly called up Max Hospital in Gurgaon to check if they could give us the shots. Well apparently they could and they had the vaccine available with them which would cost us Rs 500/person as compared to the Rs 250/person at the places named above. Feeling slightly sheepish about my panic attack i dutifully followed Pooja to Max where we were told at the reception as a FYI while we were paying money to the cashier that everything was just fine other than that they would not be able to issue us the certificate since certification is regulated by the government.

Stage was set for panic attack #2 but Pooja intelligently and proactively suggested that we go have dinner at Italiano and round that up with dessert at Mocha. The thought of yummy fish in rosemary sauce & the heavenly, dripping in olive oil, pasta in pesto sauce was enough to relegate any thoughts about yellow fever shots to the back of my mind for the time being.

Saturday the 8th could not arrive fast enough and by default we ended up at RML given that they were the only place which was open for the vaccination on Saturday. We were told that registrations for getting the shot started at 9 so we arrived at 9:05 to find a longish queue at the registration counter. A circular stuck on the window clearly stated 9:00am as the time for the counter to open but in true government hospital style we were told that "sahab 9:30 baje aate hain"

Registration started slightly after 9:30 and we ended up paying for the cost of the shot, getting our number in the queue (21, 22) and the blank certificate at about 10am. Dont forget to take your original passport as they are quite strict about that requirement. We filled out the certificate with our name, passport number etc and then started the next phase of waiting outside another room as the doctor arrived at 10:30. We got our shots and the signed and stamped yellow fever vaccination certificate valid for 10 years at slightly after 11:00am.

The entire process was not as bad as i had initially imagined but took slightly longer than i thought it would due to all the waiting time. Apparently a friend of ours who also got vaccinated in RML 7-8 years ago reported about A/C waiting rooms in RML, with mainly international travelers queuing up for the shot. Well things have changed, the A/C works in the doctors room in which you end up spending 5 min while being given the shots and the waiting is done out in the corridor or in a small garden courtyard with some benches close to the doctors room. There were no international travellers in the queue that day, just your usual groups of immigrating Sardarji's and lesser skilled workers.

I would suggest to anyone who plans to get their shots at RML to get there between 10:00am - 10:30am and you should get your signed & stamped certificate by 11:30 with significantly lesser amount of waiting around.

With the certificate in our possession (laminated the very next dayl.. hey its valid for 10 years and i dont want to be queuing again in RML if i can help it) we are all geared to take off later tonight.


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