Why Does Vaccination Matter?

In developing nations like India, many parents aren't able to keep track of their child's immunizations. Current solutions such as hard copies of records are easily lost, and there is no centralized location to retrieve this information. Moreover, in rural India, there is little incentive to get children immunized when it is at the price of losing valuable hours in the workday during which parents could otherwise be earning money for the family. These reasons compounded together ultimately mean that there are large hurdles to overcome in order to achieve effective and systematic immunization, and by extension, overall health in society. At the same time, the same rural population has a high growth rate of mobile phone usage. We seek to leverage this fact to solve the problem of low immunization rates in rural India.

Figure 1 Current Hardcopy immunization records

Figure 1 Current Hardcopy immunization records

The World Health Organization estimates that globally 1.5 million children die of vaccine-preventable diseases each year and accounts for nearly 20% of all child mortality the under age of five.

Our goal is to:

1) Encourage parents to get their children immunized

2) Make it easy for parents to track and monitor their child’s immunization record

Our solution:

We've developed a system that allows parents to use mobile text messaging to keep track of their child's immunizations.

When the child is born or on his/her first visit to a healthcare facility (in this case, a primary healthcare center in Chennai), the child is signed up for the service by the healthcare professional. Every time the child is due for an immunization (in accordance with the Indian Academy of Pediatrics immunization schedule), our service will send a SMS notification to the parent. Once parents get their child the recommended immunization, the healthcare provider will give parents a unique code associated with the immunization received. Parents then text this code to us so that we can record that the child has received the vaccination. In the process, we are simultaneously also building a good database for regional health services.

Figure 2 Healthcare Professional administering immunizations

Figure 2 Healthcare Professional administering immunizations

In future iterations, we hope to get local mobile service providers involved. We plan on implementing an incentive-based recoding system wherein, once we receive the unique code from the parent’s account we can reward parents with free mobile minutes. This model draws on and leverages the power of incentives. In at 2010 study by Banerjee [1], it was demonstrated that small incentives for parents increased full immunization rates two-fold. This approach was twice as cost-effective as only improving the immunization service reliability without providing any incentives to the parents. Service providers are also incentivized to become involved as this opportunity can provide good public relations and expand the scope of their market reach.

Figure 3 Graphical representation of the power of incentives

Figure 3 Graphical representation of the power of incentives [1]

Path to market:

We are modeled as a nonprofit service. We will act as a public provider working with the local government agencies to provide essential immunization services for which the government has previously defined and allocated funding. To cover the operational costs of our pilot study, we would apply for funding from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the Gates Foundation's Vaccine Innovation Award and Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) initiative.

[1]Banerjee, Abhijit V., Esther Duflo, Rachel Glennerster, and Dhruva Kothari. 2010. “Improving Immunisation Coverage in Rural India: A Clustered Randomised Controlled Evaluation of Immunisation Campaigns with and without Incentives.” BMJ 340:c2220.

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