Vodafone Partners To Use Mobile Technology To Increase Vaccination in Africa

By Sam Wakoba
  Published 13 Dec 2012
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Vodafone, one of the world's largest mobile communications firm by revenue with approximately 407 million customers partnered with the GAVI Alliance (“GAVI”) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in a move that will see  mobile technology used to increase uptake of vaccination in sub Saharan Africa. According to Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone: “Vodafone is committed to investing in mobile technologies that can transform healthcare in both developed and emerging markets. These partnerships have the potential to save millions of children’s lives in some of the world’s poorest countries and we are delighted to support this critically important endeavour.” Vodafone and the GAVI Alliance with help from the UK government will reach out to 73 poor countries to obtain new and underused vaccines and strengthen their health systems. GSK, Save the Children and Mozambique Ministry of Health will work together on a pilot program in Mozambique. The partners will for three years identify how health ministries in GAVI-supported countries in Africa can use mobile technology to improve uptake of immunisation. Image from vaccinenewsdaily.com The program has been funded by the GAVI Matching Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government. The UK Department for International Development (“DFID”) will contribute $1.5 million cash to GAVI to match Vodafone’s technology and services. GAVI has at the moment raised $52.4 million and still working towards its goal of raising $260 million by the end 2015.
Increasing Vaccination Through Mobile Technology
The partners want to ensure mobile technology increases  vaccination by 5 -10% in coverage with a pilot in Mozambique in the Save the Children health sites. Save the Children will be the program’s training partner training health workers and supporting the development and testing of the mobile solution. Vodafone will develop the technology, providing handsets and integrating the solution into the Mozambique’s MOH’s health IT infrastructure. GSK will provide industry expertise and evaluation advice. The pilot will run in 1,500 clinics across Mozambique and if viable will be extended to other developing countries. Vodafone’s move will help GAVI achieve the global goal to vaccinate more children and reduce four million deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases by 2015. It will also reduce the over 22 million unimmunised child population worldwide. GAVI has to date financed the immunisation of over 370 million children and prevented more than 5.5 million premature deaths since 2000. GSK, one of the world’s leading research based pharmaceutical firm believes in what GAVI has been doing and wants to help transform global health using innovative technology. According to Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK,This new partnership combines GSK’s expertise, knowledge and resources with those of Vodafone to help deliver life-saving vaccines to tens of thousands more children in Mozambique.” The partners aim that a sustainable and scalable model will be created and could be later replicated in other developing countries to help improve people’s health and well-being. The partners see the increasing access to mobile phones in Africa as an opportunity for healthcare providers to utilise to save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives. According to a report by Informa Telecoms and media, by end of 2012 there will be over 750 million mobile subscriptions in Africa. Mobile phones can therefore be used to reach the growing population on the continent to increase the uptake of vaccinations. The World Health Organisation says vaccinations and provision of clean water supplies are the most cost-effective public health measures to reduce the more than one million children who die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Technology will help reach out to many who can’t be accessed by road or near health centres. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said that technology helps GAVI reach some of the most difficult to reach areas of the world to provide life-saving vaccines to all children. According to Berkley: ”Cutting-edge mobile technology has the potential to help us overcome some of our most difficult challenges in gauging stock levels, ensuring vaccines are stored safely and letting parents know when their children are due for a vaccine.” Image from http://blog.nielsen.com
Opportunity to Transform Lives Using Technology
And in Africa, everyday the use of technology is expanding more than the access to clean water and health facilities. According to Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development  there are over one thousand new mobile broadband connections per minute in the developing world, there is therefore a tremendous opportunity to transform lives using technology. Greening said: “Britain is a proud partner in this innovative project from Vodafone and GAVI. Opening up healthcare to people through their mobile phones will increase the take-up of basic treatments that make a huge difference to people’s lives and livelihoods.” SMS texts will be used to notify mothers on vaccination program dates, send health records to both mothers and health workers and also schedule appointments. Health facilities in remoter regions can also use SMS to monitor stock and request for more from their headquarters. And this is not a trial and error program as the partners are not new in using technology in health care delivery on the continent. Over 5,000 clinics across Tanzania run on Vodafone’s mobile stock management system and track malaria treatments. Over 1,800 remote community healthcare workers in South Africa access and update patient records using a Vodafone mobile solution.
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