GlaxoSmithKline dials up Vodafone for mobile tech alliance

GlaxoSmithKline has taken on another program that taps the capabilities of mobile technologies to address healthcare needs in Africa. The London-based drug giant's ($GSK) partnership with the telecom group Vodafone is expected to test the use of text messaging to improve vaccination rates in Mozambique.

GSK Chief Executive Officer Andrew Witty spoke up for the effort, calling the combination of the pharma company and Vodafone's capabilities a potential way to deliver "lifesaving vaccines to tens of thousands more children in Mozambique." The company is one of the largest vaccine makers in the world, and GSK shipped more than 80% of its 1.1 billion doses of vaccines to developing countries. Yet the pharma group estimates that up to 1 in 5 kids around the world don't take basic vaccines.

Lack of awareness and recordkeeping appear to be part of the problem. GSK and Vodafone--along with Save the Children with support from the Mozambique Ministry of Health--revealed plans for a one-year pilot program to study whether the use of mobile technology could boost the proportion of vaccinated children in the country 5% to 10%.

Taking advantage of the spread of mobile phones in Africa, the pilot program will use SMS text messaging to inform mothers about important vaccines for their kids, and texts can be used to set up appointments, according to GSK. With plans to include 100 clinics, the pilot program will equip health workers with smartphones and software to keep records of patients' vaccinations and coordinate with families to schedule important shots. 

"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," Witty said in a statement.

GSK has tapped mobile tech before to tackle health issues in Africa. To combat rampant drug counterfeiting, last year the company began supplying antibiotics in Nigeria with scratch-off panels and codes that can be texted to a system that verifies whether the meds are authentic. And the company is supporting a program in Rwanda to field teams of nurses with mobile phones that they can use in caring for patients with poor access to healthcare.

- here's GSK's release
- see FierceVaccines' article

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