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Mobile Technology to save lives through vaccination in Africa

Vodafone has formed two partnerships that will use mobile technology to increase childhood vaccination levels in sub-Saharan Africa. This will support the global goal to vaccinate an additional quarter of a billion children and avert four million deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases by 2015.

The World Health Organisation has identified vaccinations as the single most cost-effective public health intervention after the provision of clean water supplies. However, more than one million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases and 22 million children worldwide remain unimmunised.

With access to mobile phones rapidly rising in the developing world, a significant opportunity exists for mobile technology to help healthcare providers save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives by increasing the take-up of vaccinations. Effective methods include alerting mothers to the availability of vaccinations by text message, enabling health workers to access health records and schedule appointments through their phones and helping health facilities in remote locations monitor stocks to ensure that vaccinations are available when mothers and children arrive.

Vodafone has therefore formed:

  1. A strategic partnership with the GAVI Alliance (“GAVI”) which, supported by the UK Government, helps 73 of the world’s poorest countries to obtain new and underused vaccines and strengthen their health system infrastructure; and
  1. A development partnership with global healthcare provider GSK, supported by Save the Children and commencing with a one year pilot with the Mozambique Ministry of Health.

The three-year partnership between Vodafone and GAVI will explore how health ministries in GAVI-supported countries in sub-Saharan Africa can use mobile technology solutions to improve their immunisation programmes. The partnership is the first private sector in-kind contribution through the GAVI Matching Fund, under which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government have agreed to match private sector contributions to GAVI. The UK Department for International Development (“DFID”) will match Vodafone’s contribution of technology and services with a $1.5 million cash contribution to GAVI. The fund has raised $52.4 million to date and aims to raise $260 million for immunisation by the end of 2015.

The Vodafone and GSK partnership will establish the effectiveness of mobile technology in increasing vaccination coverage by 5 -10% and will commence with a pilot in Mozambique. Save the Children will look to include its health sites in the pilot and will collaborate with Vodafone, GSK and the Mozambique Ministry of Health (“MMOH”) on training health workers and supporting the development and testing of the mobile solution. Vodafone’s role will include developing the technology, providing handsets to health workers and integrating the solution into the MMOH’s health IT infrastructure. GSK’s role will include providing industry expertise and evaluation advice. If successful, the pilot will form a basis on which to commercially scale the technology to 1,500 clinics across Mozambique and for Vodafone and GSK to extend their partnership to other developing countries.

Both partnerships will draw on Vodafone’s experience of developing commercial mobile health solutions in other countries. 5,000 clinics across Tanzania use the firm’s mobile stock management service to track malaria treatments and more than 1,800 remote community healthcare workers in South Africa are using a mobile solution to access and update patient records. 

Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone, said: “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.”

Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said: “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.”

Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, said: “Innovative technologies – whether mobile devices, medicines or vaccines – are helping to transform global health. Our hope is that we will create a sustainable and scalable model which could ultimately be replicated to help improve people’s health and well-being across developing countries.”

Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, said: “Immunising children has been a huge success in helping reduce child deaths in recent years but we know the children in remote areas are missing out, with 22 million around the world being left behind.  Mobile technology, in the hands of front line health workers, could help close the gap.”

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