These 10 teams will innovate how #VaccinesWork around the world

Photo of a child being vaccinated (via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

Vaccines save millions of lives every year and are considered one of the most cost-effective public health interventions ever developed. However, 1 in 5 children around the world are missing even the most basic vaccines and are thus at risk of contracting serious diseases. Vaccine demand faces many challenges such as costs, supply shortages, a lack of trained health workers and unreliable transportation systems and storage facilities. Vaccines and resulting immunization have a positive impact on nearly all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

Increasing Demand for Vaccination Services” is part of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenge Explorations. The World Food Programme (WFP)’s Innovation Accelerator is collaborating with the Gates Foundation in inviting innovators who can address this challenge. Ten teams have been carefully selected to join us from the 24–28 June in Munich, Germany for a high-intensity Innovation Bootcamp. Their selection was based on criteria such as the level of innovation, team strength and passion, business model, and — most importantly — the potential to have scalable, positive impact on the lives of many.

At the bootcamp, teams will deep dive into field-level challenges, ideate solutions and refine project plans with the support of mentors. WFP’s Innovation Accelerator will introduce teams to innovation techniques such as human-centered design and lean startup methodologies. The week culminates with Pitch Night on Thursday 27 June, where each team will have the opportunity to present their solution to an audience of WFP leadership and potential investors.

Meet the 10 teams who are innovating in the Vaccine demand space:

Vaccination Calendar Baby-Wrap

Early marriage, a high adolescent birth rate, and a lack of access to education contributes to the fact that one in ten children in Niger die before age six, many from vaccine-preventable diseases. To address these issues, the GAIA Vaccine Foundation has designed an illustrated vaccination calendar on a baby-wrap, as a culturally relevant textile pattern, leveraging traditional designs with local symbols. These are to be distributed to mothers as a practical yet distinctive visual aid which has the goal of relaying urgent information to caregivers, encouraging the timely completion of vaccinations, increasing vaccine coverage and reducing child mortality.

A traditional Nigerien textile (photo via Vaccination Calendar Baby-Wrap)

Leveraging ROSCAs

Since 2015, routine immunization coverage for children under the age of 5 has stagnated globally. Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs) are social networks whose members make regular contributions to a fund which can be given (in whole or in part) to each member in rotation. ROSCAs also yield powerful normative social influence, including health behaviours. This project believes such influence can be leveraged to generate demand for routine immunization. To begin, they will map existing ROSCAs in Ethiopia and Cameroon, two countries with low immunization coverage, using a participatory approach by addressing vaccination barriers (including communication and community participation).

PERSO-MAP

PERSO-MAP is a decision-support tool providing an intuitive way of mapping a particular catchment area so that a community extension worker can anticipate and adapt to diverse caregivers’ needs in their area. This facilitates dynamic response and direct action such as messaging, time slots, advance information provision, shared transportation, and many more. Segments are characterised by those with similar household situations such as mothers/children from the same birth cohort, mothers with the same number of children, and caregivers of orphans. Having this information available to the community extension worker (who acts as a liaison to the health care centre) allows them to act as a focal point in both providing practical knowledge and convenience for caregivers seeking vaccination.

Increasing Vaccinations via Facebook

In Myanmar, it is said that “Facebook is the internet”. With 85% of all the country’s internet traffic going through that platform, and three quarters of the population relying on it for news, this project capitalizes on Facebook’s popularity to increase vaccination demand in Kachin State. Such high penetration and high usage rates will allow for successful behaviour-influencing tools such as polling on vaccine scheduling preferences, live Q&A sessions with “Immunization Champions”, and digital recognition and group nudges to promote positive social bandwagoning.

BabyOnTrack

India has the highest number of non-immunized children in the world — about 7.4 million. This is due to two main barriers: limited caregiver knowledge in some places and the high cost of seeking such services. BabyOnTrack aims to tackle this, as a low-cost, easy-to-use parent helpline. BabyOnTrack is a message-based support system for parents that provides continuous care, practical educational content, and best practices in baby care. They use an in-house clinical team that acts as a one-stop resource, providing counselling to parents via specific information and personalized reminders, managing post vaccination complications, and facility level demand planning.

Photo via BabyOnTrack

Rejoice Architecture Meets Social Norms

Rejoice Architecture aims to improve vaccination rates in Nepal by restructuring the health clinics to make them more welcoming and functional, facilitating better caregiver-provider interactions, and strengthening caregivers’ expectations of good service. The intervention will include changes such as cleaning up facilities, providing seating amenities in waiting areas, planting flowers around the premises and constructing a pathway, amongst many other renovations along with instituting an appointment system. With a better cared-for environment, this will encourage and promote improved service and in turn, increase vaccination demand.

Voice Health-Vault and App

Due to lack of digital literacy, absence of local language keyboards, and insufficient bandwidth in rural India, this project aims to use voice as a platform to make it easier for a ground-level health worker or mother to retrieve, record, and store immunization-related information. In addition, it aims to educate mothers on hygiene and best practices, as well as bring about a behaviour change in community health workers via innovative voice-based games.

Bablibot

Say hello to Bablibot, a vaccines chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing technologies, here to revolutionize the delivery of health education to caregivers. By engaging caregivers in real-time and stimulating real-life conversations around the immunization experience, Bablibot can address queries with personalized, data-driven messages tailored to the child’s individual needs. For example, it can provide information on vaccine-specific days, the location of the closest immunization centre and address common post-immunization concerns.

A woman using Bablibot (photo via Bablibot)

Immunization Champions

Immunization Champions’ aim is to create an engaged, informed and empowered force of adolescent girls to boost demand for immunization services in currently unreached geographical areas. They seek to implement a school-based training initiative, enabling them to become community advocates for immunization. They will receive comprehensive training on the importance of immunization, identifying never- and under-immunized children, in addition to being provided leadership, community mobilization, critical thinking and communication skills.

LEOPOD

LEOPOD, or Leveraging Enablers of Positive Deviancy, seeks to increase the demand for vaccination services by using “Positive Deviance”. Their creative and unconventional approach seeks to determine why some caregivers fully immunize their children while others do not, despite exposure to the same socio-economic, cultural, geographic, and cultural conditions. Identified key enablers will be engaged as community-based “immunization mentors” in designing a Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) intervention package that will be delivered with the aim of increasing vaccination demand in low-uptake settings.

Follow each project’s progress at the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s bootcamp collaboration with BMGF from 24–28 June on Twitter (@WFPInnovation and @gatesfoundation) and please tweet along with us using the hashtag #VaccinesWork.

WFP Innovation Accelerator

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Inspiring and supporting new solutions to #disrupthunger