How digital technologies can revolutionize child immunization in the Philippines
Closing the digital divide by using solutions that can benefit every child
Health worker Injilah Moca writes 3-month-old baby Mohammed’s progress in his Child Immunization Record while his mother thanks the staff at the health centre. In Buadiposo-Buntong Rural Health Unit in Lanao del Sur, as in all the health facilities in the Philippines, health workers still rely on paper-based records to update children’s vaccination records. UNICEF and the Department of Health (DOH) are proposing a solution that can change this.
Imagine an online, cloud-based Baby Book that uploads children’s vaccine records real time and sends reminders to mothers that their baby is scheduled for their next polio vaccine. The Immunization Information System (IIS), funded by Government of Japan, is a system that delivers a full suite of functionalities designed to ensure that every child benefits from the life-changing power of vaccines.
In the Philippines, over 1 million children have not received a single vaccine, the 5th country in the world with the greatest number of unvaccinated children. This is despite the country being one of the world’s fastest emerging markets, recording a whopping 7.6 per cent GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth in 2022. While a subset of upwardly mobile Filipinos benefits from telemedicine and other medical technologies following the COVID-19 pandemic, a large population of children are still unreached by the most basic of services.
Tracking and monitoring data is still one of the weakest links in the vaccination chain. Paper-based records get destroyed during disasters or conflict or are lost when health workers and midwives resign or retire. The lack of a real-time information system hampers chasing defaulters and constrains future planning.
UNICEF is preparing to develop a mobile version of the IIS that will integrate into DOH's newly built Synchronized Electronic Immunization Repository (SEIR), ensuring all immunization data will be centrally processed. The mobile IIS offers a range of benefits to the health system at the national down to the barangay level. It ensures the timeliness, quality, and completeness of reports, schedules appointments and reminders for both health staff and patients, generates visualizations, charts and graphs, registers outbreaks, and tracks reasons why community members refuse vaccines, among others. It also uses mobile devices which can easily be connected to the Internet and are more cost-efficient than full-featured laptops and desktops.
“Vaccinating every child means investing in new approaches to make the most of scientific and technological innovations. Communities that remain unreached risk further exclusion as most of the modern world remains out of their reach. We must close the digital divide by using solutions that can benefit every child,” Rachel Pagdagdagan, an officer from UNICEF Philippines’ Knowledge, Innovation, and Data-Driven Systems (KIDDS) Unit says.