GSK, Vodafone Partner On African Vaccines Programme

GSK

VENTURES AFRICA - As the mobile penetration increases in Africa, leading British telecoms company, Vodafone is collaborating with global healthcare company, GlaxoSmithKline in a novel project that will utilize text messages to increase childhood vaccination in Mozambique. The project, if successful, will create a model that can be replicated throughout the country and then scaled across Africa to reach thousands more children with life-saving vaccination.

According to a joint statement from the companies on Monday, “This project aims to establish if mobile technology solutions could increase the proportion of children covered by vaccination in Mozambique by an additional 5-10 percent through helping to encourage mothers to take up vaccination services, support health workers, improve record keeping, and enable better management of vaccine stock,.”

With support from the Save the Children Charity, the one-year pilot project in Mozambique will see mothers registered on a ministry of health database, alert them to the availability of vaccinations and allow them to schedule appointments by text.

The phone company is also partnering with the non-profit GAVI Alliance to study how health ministries across sub-Saharan Africa can use mobile technology to improve their immunisation programmes. The partnership with GAVI, which funds bulk-buy vaccinations for poorer countries, will last three years and is being supported by the British government. Britain will match Vodafone’s contribution of technology and services with a $1.5 million cash contribution to GAVI.

Vodafone’s project of using text-messaging is an example of how the use of mobile phones is being used to improve healthcare in Africa. Mobile phones have also been used in recent times to check if people are taking HIV/AIDS drugs properly.

Despite major advances in the funding and availability of vaccines worldwide, it is estimated that up to a fifth of children worldwide still do not receive basic vaccines. The proliferation of mobile phones in Africa offers an opportunity to create innovative and cost-effective ways to address barriers to universal vaccination.

According to the CEO of GSK, Andrew Witty; “Innovative technologies – whether mobile devices, medicines or vaccines – are helping to transform global health. Organisations such as UNICEF and GAVI have played a key role in making vaccines much more accessible in Africa but barriers still exist which stop children from benefitting from basic immunisation.”

He added that this new partnership combines GSK’s expertise, knowledge and resources with those of Vodafone with the potential to deliver life-saving vaccines to tens of thousands more children in Mozambique. Our hope is that together we will create a sustainable and scalable model which could ultimately be replicated to help more children live healthy lives across developing countries.”