Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Day two at the clinic. Today was very hands-on, as we actually were sent out with nurses to give vaccines in neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are extremely poor, with hastily made houses full of inhabitants, including lots of children. We went from door to door, asking if there were any children living in the house, giving those under 6 polio vaccines and all others probiotic yogurt, parasite medication, and vitamin supplements (folic acid for girls and pregnant women, vitamin A and mineral drops for all). Although the families were grateful to receive the medications and vaccines, the children were quite resistant. It was often difficult to get the child just to open his/her mouth so we can get 2-4 drops into their mouths, sometimes getting them spit back into our faces. I did not personally give any vaccines, but rather helped with getting the materials out for each child, opening their mouths when they were stubborn, and taking their vaccine "cartillas", which is a pamphlet containing records of each vaccine the child has recieved, required by Seguro Popular, or public health insurance.
From what I understand, the vaccines given to children in Mexico are the same as the ones given in the U.S., from polio to hepatitis to tuberculosis; this happened to be the week of polio vaccine distribution, when clinics actually reach out to the public and administer them directly. They do this three times a year, for a week, distributing different vaccines as needed.

After this eye-opening experience, we went back to our middle-class homes with hot food on the table. And what a relief it was. It had already been an exhausting day of working in the sun, but we still had much ahead of us. We proceeded to go to our spanish class, which requires about a 40 minute bus ride to the neighborhood known as San Felipe, and lasts about 3 hours. We went over different tenses and learned new vocabulary that would be useful in the medical field. I enjoy the teachers and their teaching style, but often find myself frustrated at not being able to understand 100% of the time and not always knowing how to ask certain questions. Regardless, I know this is way the best way to learn.

What surprised me most today was how poor Oaxaca really is. I came into this knowing that Oaxaca is the poorest region in Mexico, but today that all became real. Houses are made from scrap metal, concrete, and sometimes incorporate recycled material such as juice boxes. Often there would be several people living in one small house, commonly a mother with about 3 children, working hard at home to keep her house in order. The smell of tortillas cooking on a stone oven is always lingering in the air, which seem to be a staple food in the Mexican diet. The mothers are so hardworking and patient, just grateful to be receiving vaccines even if their children are screaming and crying their eyes out. They seem happy to see us, knowing that we're there to increase coverage of healthcare, even those families that don't have time to come into the clinics themselves. It's amazing that I am contributing to the cause of eradicating such a debilitating disease as polio, which could devastate these already poor families with only basic healthcare. I am glad to be part of it and know that I am making a difference in this community.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, door to door vaccinations. I am sure your experience gave you a new perspective on poverty.