The foremost criterion for a trip to Kenya and many sub-Saharan African countries is the yellow fever vaccination, to be taken at least 10 days before the trip. It is valid for 10 years from the date of vaccination. In Chennai, one can get the shots administered at the Port Health Organisation of Chennai Port Trust on Rajaji Salai or at the King Institute of Preventive Medicine in Guindy.
Reading up some forums on the net, I decided to go to the King Institute on a Friday. Someone who had been to the Port Trust office had written that it was a filthy and disorganised place and he had to go to King subsequently. At the King Institute, it is offered every Friday from 10 am to 1 pm., but coupons are offered only till 12 noon. The day I reached there were at least 125 applicants and the soft-spoken man I spoke to on the phone was seen counting heads with a worried look on his face. I think that day they ran out of the vaccine for the last few.
King Institute is a vast but dreary campus in the SIPCOT estate, and is only a kilometre away from the Guindy Railway Station. (We went by road from Mount Road and took a shortcut to the right after the Saidapet bridge, ask a couple of autorickshaw guys or small shop owners for directions).
As soon as you enter the campus, you see a big crowd waiting for the YF shots. Go inside and collect a token from the old man-in-charge, wait for them to call your number in batches of ten, fill in the particulars and pay the fee of Rs. 300. Be sure to carry your passport. (If Friday is a holiday, vaccination will be given on the previous day.)
Anyway, we couldnt take ours after waiting from 12 to 1.30 pm since the grumpy nurse said she wouldnt take the risk of giving my son with his skin ailment the vaccination. Someone just before us had developed a severe violent reaction (he began throwing up and his face turned red) to the vaccine and had to be sent away to a hospital elsewhere. She advised us to try the Port Trust since it has a hospital nearby.
The vaccine is contra-indicated in persons with egg allergy, HIV patients, those on immuno suppressant therapy, pregnant women and infants. Since my son is allergic to many foods and we avoid egg zealously from his diet, V didnt want to take a risk. (The vaccine is prepared in fowl eggs.)
He began preparing Ash for staying behind in India, even promising him an amusement park trip if he didnt go. I was loath to leave him behind as he was the most excited about the trip (Mira who is not keen on flight trips has been asking me if there is a train to Kenya!) My greatest hurdle was convincing V to let Ash take the vaccination - since he has eaten eggs occasionally but without immediate, adverse consequences.
So, with fervent prayers, we went to the Port Trust place in Parrys (close to Chennai Beach railway station) where many of the big government offices are. Port Trust occupies one whole stretch. (But please dont try the vaccination room ph. no. given in the link, it belongs to some other office of the Port Trust, an irritated official tells callers.)
It was not any filthier than other government offices in India. In fact, I enjoyed the small colonial building with a small ramshackle temple under a banyan tree, which gave plenty of shade and kept us cool. There was the sea breeze to boot.
Tokens are issued from 9.30 am to 10.30 am for a maximum of 40 applicants every Monday and Wednesday in the Nurse's room. Passport details are filled on the yellow-colored certificate and on a form; the remaining particulars in both have to filled by the applicant. Then one is called upstairs to pay the fees, and return to wait on the benches downstairs. The vaccinations administered as per turn, and the passport and certificates returned after due stamping.
The wait is not too long - it might take 1 to 1 1/2 hours in all. The staff - right from the male nurse to the lady assistant/ayah - are courteous. It might be advisable to wear a short-sleeve/sleeveless tshirt or dress since it is administered in the upper arm. I found the PHO a more pleasant experience than King.
Ash got his shot without trouble, and hasnt developed any allergy so far.
p.s. Please bear with the long, boring note. I thought it might come in useful for other visitors to African and Latin American countries, where the mosquito-borne fever is endemic. India has the vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and doesnt want to add another disease from the dengue and chikun gunya distributor.