French telecommunications firm Orange announced at the conclusion of the 2018 edition of World Economic Forum (WEF) that its mobile technology will be used to inform Ivorian parents about the importance of vaccination by sending text and voice messages in the local language.
The telco says targeted messages through its joint investment with Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance) of US$ 5.47 million over five years in the "M-Vaccin" project will ensure parents don't miss immunisation sessions by reminding them of their children's schedule and dates.
Bruno Mettling, Deputy CEO of Orange Group in charge of operations in Africa and the Middle East said the investment represents a concrete contribution to Côte d'Ivoire's large-scale vaccination programme.
"Orange is convinced of the power of digital tools to support the most isolated populations in Africa, both in the health sector and in other areas such as education and financial services. Health is a priority for Orange, and the Group is playing an active part in developing the latest digital innovations and supporting healthcare players in achieving digital transformation."
The partnership will last five years and will be implemented in 29 districts across Côte d'Ivoire where immunisation coverage is below the national average, or where drop-out rates are above 10% according to Orange, Gavi and Côte d'Ivoire's Health Ministry.
A study carried out in 2015 by the Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI) established that the "M-Vaccin" programme could reach more than 800,000 children in Côte d'Ivoire and can then be extended to other countries in West Africa.
In addition to sending voice and text messages, Orange says it will also provide health workers with a M-Vaccin mobile app which will enable them to capture data from the communities and populations they are in contact with. That data will then be used to create a personalised immunisation schedule for each family according to the operator.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, says "Parents often do not receive enough information about the importance of immunisation because they live a long way from health centres or in hard-to-reach places. These voice and text messages should therefore have a significant impact and lead to an increase in vaccine coverage."
Dr Raymonde Goudou Coffie, Minister of Health and Public Hygiene in Côte d' Ivoire agrees that the project can make a real impact on national coverage in districts by sending targeted voice and text messages in local languages.
"The Ministry of Health is working with partners like Gavi to keep those target populations better informed about the importance of vaccination. The solution, which will be made available to community health workers, will also make it possible to closely monitor pregnant women and children and to reduce the number of people lost to follow-up."