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In the Maharashtra state, in India, 26.5% of children reach their first birthday without receiving all their recommended vaccinations resulting in a child dying every hour from vaccine-preventable diseases. In addition, 29.7% of pregnant women do not go for all four required antenatal care visits. These two statistics contribute to an additional estimated 12,000+ infant deaths and 200 maternal deaths each year.
While the supply of routine vaccines is well taken care of by the Indian government, the challenge now is on the demand side. In a nationwide survey, when explaining why their child had missed a vaccine dose, parents were four times more likely to identify demand-side barriers than supply-side ones. Another survey led by UNICEF, of nearly 40,000 caregivers of under-vaccinated children, found that the most common reason for missed appointments was a lack of awareness. With increased drop-offs caused by disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an urgent need to get childrens’ immunisation schedules back on track.
Increasing the vaccination rate and antenatal visits in the Maharashtra state is simple and cost-effective, even in remote rural areas. We aim to close the “awareness gap” by delivering a tech solution: curated, personalised text reminders to mothers and carers. We send caregivers personalised SMS reminders based on their child’s vaccination schedule and the mother's antenatal visits. Previous research, conducted by us, found that SMS reminders increased vaccine uptake and antenatal visits by three to eight percentage points.
In early 2021, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Maharashtra State Family Welfare Bureau. This provides us with the permission to roll out text reminders for vaccination and antenatal care state-wide. Furthermore, we have successfully demonstrated the operational feasibility of this programme in the Satara district and the government is now interested in scaling them up in additional districts across the state.
For more information on this project, do refer to our Slide Deck.