December 10, 2012 / 8:01 AM / 7 years ago

Vodafone and GSK link on African vaccines programme

A pedestrian passes a Vodafone store on Oxford Street in central London, November 10, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

LONDON (Reuters) - British mobile phone group Vodafone (VOD.L) and drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) are joining forces on a novel project to increase childhood vaccination rates in Mozambique using text messaging.

At the same time Vodafone has formed a strategic partnership 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 move is the latest example of mobile phones being used to improve healthcare in Africa. Now widespread across the continent, mobile phones are already deployed in other schemes, including ones to check that people are taking HIV/AIDS drugs properly.

The one-year pilot project in Mozambique, supported by the Save the Children charity, will register mothers on a ministry of health database, alert them to the availability of vaccinations and allow them to schedule appointments by text.

The aim is to increase the proportion of children covered by vaccination by an additional 5 to 10 percent, Vodafone and GSK said on Monday.

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.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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