Men in pink: Making Alternate Vaccine Delivery system a success in Madhya Pradesh

The Alternate Vaccine Delivery System (AVD) has been a boon to India’s immunization programme, ensuring the delivery of vaccines and their on-site availability of logistical supplies on immunization session days.

The system enables health workers to successfully provide immunization services to all community members, including in remote areas of the country. The AVD provider is often a local person engaged in the activity on a part-time basis.

Each Planning Unit, either a Primary Health Center (PHC) or Community Health Center (CHC), has an AVD map, route chart, vaccine delivery details, and contact persons’ names and telephone numbers to aid the timely delivery of vaccines. S/he also brings back unused vaccines, after the immunization session concludes.

Districts Barwani and Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh have a team of such dedicated AVD service providers who are diligently working to support immunization service delivery in the toughest and remotest areas of the districts.

Familiar tribe of mobile health workers who build a strong connect with the community

These “Men in Pink”, owing to the pink shirts they wear as uniform, move on motorcycles from falia to falia and across tolas – small hamlets which punctuate the landscape of districts in the state. Following the AVD route map, they make several stops along the way in a bid to cover every isolated and far-flung hamlet.

Motorcycles are the only convenient mode  of transportation to access such remote areas. Traveling on bumpy roads is bound to put vaccine boxes at risk, and as a solution, the AVD personnel, on the behest of district officials are utilizing district funds to instal metal boxes on both sides of the motorcycle to protect the boxes from damage.

Traversing the challenging Barwani terrain on their two-wheelers, the “men in pink” spell hope for their communities, and are at the frontline of delivering lifesaving vaccines every single day. In addition to delivering vaccines, they also bring back unopened vials and vaccines from the immunization sessions.

Many stories of committed health workers who steer vaccination drives

Gangaprasad Saste, a young man from Barwani is one such driving force of AVD. He covers villages which fall under the Semlet subcenter of Barwani. Prior to this, he worked as a Kulfi seller in and around the same villages and as such was well versed with these areas, making his current job a lot easier. In addition, he earned his share fame for his exceptional singing talent which he used innovatively to build rapport with local communities and mobilize them to vaccinate their children!

Initially, he was hesitant to be a part of the health system. But later after interacting with his supervisor, he became motivated and took up the job. “Having learnt from Sir, I’m now familiar with all the vaccines and am able to advice mothers on benefits of immunization for their children”, he says with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

In the past 3 years, Gangaprasad has become the backbone of the AVD in the villages under his coverage area. He ensures that the vaccine carriers reach the farthest falias of the villages. Even on non-duty days, when he is out and about selling delicious Kulfis, he keeps an eye out for children and pregnant women who are due for vaccination or have been left out. Gangaprasad feels it is his responsibility to serve his community. As he goes about his business, he hums along songs on immunization to ensure he misses no chance to spread the message about the importance of immunization among children, and their families, who approach him to purchase a stick of kulfi. His dedication and passion for immunization has made him a champion and a role model in his community. The success of the AVD rests on the reliable shoulders of health workers like Gagaprasad Saste. The system has also generated employment opportunities for rural unemployed youth. As long as health workers like Gangaprasad continue to dedicate themselves to the cause of immunization, there is hope for a better, brighter and healthier future for the women and children of India.