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Yellow Fever – in Black and White


With a surname like Smit, Jan was as Dutch as you could get. Known for their forthrightness and thriftiness,Jan was typically Dutch and tells this story with great pride.

“I was in Nigeria last month. And do you know I forgot to take my International Health Card. So at the Immigration I was given two options – take an injection or go back home. I told the guy, I refuse to take an injection because I’ve already had one. And I refuse to go home because I’m here on business.”

“I don’t care Sir! Rules are rules.”

“But I have an important business meeting.”

” But Rules are rules.”

Almost reaching a stalemate, I stared the black man in the eye till he finally said.

“Ok. Then you can pay me a fine of $30 and I’ll let you go.”

“I refuse to pay a fine. I’ve got the health card and I’ve been to this country hundreds of times before!”

“I don’t care Sir! You have to pay!”

” I simply refuse to pay, go back home or take another injection!”

“In that case Sir, I’ll have to put you in quarantine for 24 hours.”

“Ok!” and with that Jan went off to spend a night in a Nigerian Quarantine ward.

“But it was great,” he told us, ” I spent one night in the ward and saved a night’s hotel stay! And I refused to pay a bribe and refused to get deported and refused to get another shot!!!”

This story may sound strange but it’s true.

But everyone may not have the luck of Jan, so it is advisable to take a Yellow Fever Shot. Now in a city like Mumbai where literally hundreds of people are coming and going to various parts of the world, this vaccination is available only at two spots – one in the the South and one in the North.

The vaccination centre in the South is run at the clinic near the Seaman’s Club, a solid stone building in a leafy lane at Ballard Estate close to the Docks. The one in the north is a swanky new building near the International Airport.

The Myths

Yellow fever has been around for as long as I can remember and the myths around the vaccination against this  disease have grown longer and longer with each successive passenger giving his own gyan. One of the major myths is that the vaccination is so painful that it is administered with an 8″ long needle in the middle of the stomach. If you see the  hypodermic syringe and the thin needle used for a sub-cutaneous prick, your pain will immediately vanish.

Another major myth : If you don’t take the Yellow fever shot, you will be in quarantine for a month. Not withstanding the two floors reserved for passengers in  quarantine in the new  five storeyed Airport Health Organisation’s building constructed by the DG, Health Services under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Government of India is in no hurry to host you for more than 6 days so that is another yellow fever myth busted.

The Facts

Well it is true that you do need to take a yellow fever vaccine not only to re-enter Bharatmata, but also to enter some of the African and American countries. The  African countries that require a yellow fever vaccine are literally from A-Z – Angola, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad  Congo, Ivory Coast, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Guninea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome et Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia; the countries in South America are Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Equador, French Guyana, Guyana, Panama, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad  & Tobago, Venezuela.
You can only get vaccinated at a health Centre operated by the GOI so forget about going to a private doctor.

The process

We went to the swanky new Airport Health Organisation Centre near Sahar International Airport. 
Prior to getting the vaccination, the passenger has to get a token i.e. be pre-registration. Registration begins only at the Centre on all working days from Monday-Friday except Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays, from 10.30-11.30. 
Since only 70 people can be vaccinated on one day, most people come to the centre at 6 am to be first in line if not second. 
Vaccinations are given only from 12.00-13.00 and an hour later the certificate is issued. So in actual fact you would need to factor in a whole day from 06.00-14.00 hours to get your shot. If you are not one of the lucky 70 early birds, you will have to come to catch the worm the next day and the next and the next. But this would normally happen only if you have particularly bad karma. In the normal course of events you should be done in three working days (as a worst case scenario).
You require :
A valid passport 
A valid ticket
3 x 100 rupee notes for the vaccination
Lots and lots of patience.
To find out more details you can call 28392302 ( which I was told by the watchman outside will never be answered!!!)

Seamen Medical Nav Bhavan Bldg., 3rd Flr. 
Ballard Estate, Ramji Kamani Marg 
Mumbai – 400 038 
Tel : 22612256 
Time : 2.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. 
Charges : Rs.300/- 
Days : Monday to Friday (Closed on all Public Holidays) 
documents required: original passport,3 nos rupee 100:00 denomination notes only(change , and 1000/500 notes not allowed) 

I have been told that to get registered at the Ballard Estate centre one has to go after 6 the day before and put your name on the list. Also please do not go to Seaman’s Club which is in the same area – that is a hostel and not a clinic. I have also been told that this is a major nightmare.

Reality Check

It would help if you called the centre to find out if the vaccine is available. Many times you will find that there is no vaccine available or no doctor available

Author: Unishta

A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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