India’s increasing life expectancy over the years can be attributed to robust immunization programs and people like Dr. Ranjan Pejaver who have taken it upon themselves to ensure that no child in India suffers from a missed vaccine. Immunize India, a program run by him sends immunization alerts to people who register for the services. We struck a conversation with him to know more about him and Immunize India and its exploits.
He defines Immunize India at the start of our conversation to set things straight, “Immunize India is an immunization alert program.
As soon as the baby is born, a text has to be sent to a national short code 566778 in the format Immunize baby’s name date of birth in DD-MM-YYYY format. For ex: Immunize Rekha 01-01-2016. To the very same cell phone number, an immediate acknowledgement of registration will be sent. Then for the next 12 years, reminders will be sent during the week of the immunization due date to the registered number. This service is free of cost.
It is available and covers every nook and corner of India, and is across all cell phone companies and operators across the country. Several studies (Cochrane database) have shown the immunization reminders have improved compliance to immunization by up to 20%!
As understandable, Immunize India is not any business India. It is a social venture which offers something imperative to human well being without charging anything to the end customers. When asked how he decided on launching it, Dr. Pejaver responded,
“The program actually was conceived following the observation that several mothers come to the clinics in acute distress and guilt about delaying or missing their baby’s immunizations. This is quite common both in urban and rural mothers due to their schedule. Both the career women of the cities and women who go the fields in rural areas forget about their children’s immunizations. These discrepancies are more during the second half of first year and later.Perhaps that is when they return to their homes after the maternity stay with their parents.”
With 1.5 million registrations till date, Immunize India has managed to gather the kind of response Dr. Pejaver expected. He gives the credit of this penetration to the cell phone revolution in the country. He explains, “The cell phone penetration is deep and wide in our country. Among various types of reminders, text message is perhaps the most effective.”
One of the other reasons for its popularity is that it is totally free of cost. We were curious to know how they manage the working capital for their venture. He explained to us, “Apart from the first text which is sent by the caregivers/parents, all the other text alerts are from our side. Thanks to Vodafone who have sponsored the entire text message costs. Pfizer India has helped us with their field force disseminating the information about the program to the paediatricians, hospitals and clinics. Our greatest strength is that the program in India is through Indian academy of Paediatrics which is the apex body of more than 27000 paediatrician / practitioners as their members. In India the program is run under their aegis and is called IAP Immunize India.”
He has been all praise for the Government’s help in Immunize India’s efforts. He revealed to us, “Government has actively encouraged and appreciated IAP Immunize India program. The Ministry of health and family welfare has been always involved, may it be the launching, done by the Minister of Telecommunications, the major press release presided by the Central Government secretary of health and family welfare. We hope to extend the program to cover the deliveries in government hospitals and primary healthcare centres will happen soon.”
Initiatives such as this are much more required in rural areas as compared to the urban areas due to various reasons. Hence the success of Immunize India would be decided on its rural penetration. Here, Immunize India has managed to make a mark. He tells us, “With the help of social media and voluntary groups, the awareness of the program is spreading. We need to make use of radio, television and the press in a more effective manner. That is when more rural and urban public will come to know of the program and will take advantage of it. This is where we need funding and we are looking for it. I hope that some private organization, corporate under their CSR initiative or International non voluntary agency will come forward to help us. A day should come when as soon as a baby is born in any part of India, should be registered with IAP Immunize India.”
Not only in India, the model of Immunize India has been appreciated in the US as well.
“We are proud to say that University of Kentucky in the USA took our program to improve the compliance amongst their citizens in the city Kentucky. The impact study they had conducted showed an increased compliance of 9%, 16% and 22% amongst study group ( receiving alerts) as compared to controls for the 2 month, four months and six months immunizations respectively. This is impressive. They are contemplating to extend the program to the entire state. Countries like Brazil and Indonesia have also shown interest in adopting the program in their countries,” Dr. Pejaver tells us proudly.
Before letting him go, we managed to get his thoughts about brainbuxa.com! Here they are – “Yes, I have checked your site. You are doing amazing work. The aspects you are covering areas of a wide variety. You are providing a platform and opportunity to both the young and experienced to share, express, learn, teach and achieve.”
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