Rotary Club of Madras, RID 3232, has been chosen as the nodal club by the Tamil Nadu government for assisting it in the task of Covid vaccination in the state.
In a letter to the club president Kapil Chitale, TN health secretary J Radhakrishnan invited the club to assist the government in the procurement and delivery of Covid-19 vaccine doses. The club has also been requested to help out with the cold chain requirement for proper storage of the vaccine, as well as implementation of the actual vaccination, and the logistics involved in this massive public health programme.
It may be recalled that RC Madras played a vital role in the 1980s and ‘90s with a bunch of passionate Rotarians led by its late president and eminent Chennai architect S L Chitale (known in the club as Kris Chitale) to literally move heaven and earth in those early years to get the oral polio drops airlifted from overseas and store them at the right temperature to safeguard their efficacy.
It was thanks to the pioneering work done by these Rotarians and others from other Rotary clubs of Tamil Nadu, and a closely coordinated partnership with the TN health department headed by the then health minister Dr H V Hande, as well as constant advice by professor of virology at CMC, Vellore, Dr Jacob John, that Tamil Nadu became the first polio-free state in India, as stated by one of its members at a recent event organised to celebrate the 10th anniversary of India being polio-free.
Interestingly, Tamil Nadu is also one of the states where there has been resistance from frontline health workers to come forward and get vaccinated against Covid-19. In the early 2000s, Rotary’s advocacy efforts, led by PRID Ashok Mahajan in some of the most backward regions of India, including Maharashtra and UP, where there were a lot of misconceptions about the oral vaccine drops, had resulted in parents coming on board. Rotary had then got the local ulemas and other religious personalities involved in advocacy. Recalls Mahajan: “I had clearly asked all the religious leaders ‘Are you with us in protecting our children against the crippling disease of polio?’ and they had unanimously said ‘yes’.”
The TN government as well as other state governments will also be looking up to Rotary to raise CSR funds for Covid vaccination and “we will be working very hard to do that,” Mahajan added.
RCM president Chitale added that as “the nodal club in Tamil Nadu for Covid vaccination, we will soon reach out to other clubs in RID 3232 and the DGs of other districts in the state to formulate a plan of action. This partnership was made possible thanks to the efforts of our past president Vivek Harinarain.”