Express Pharma

‘Vaccination is about providing children with a lifetime of benefits’

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Over three million children die every year, which could easily be prevented by vaccination, informs Neeraj Mehta, CEO, ImmunifyMe during an interaction with Akanki Sharma

What is the current scenario of immunisation in India? Compared to other countries in the world, where does India stand?
Immunisation helps half-a-billion children against a range of deadly diseases, preventing seven million future deaths in the process. The bottom line is that vaccination is about providing children with a lifetime of benefits. However, India has the largest number of unimmunised children which is 7.4 million, and the country also has the largest number of births per year (26 million). Nearly 90 per cent of children in India are born in government or private facilities. According to the latest statistics released by NSO for immunisation, 98 per cent of the children born in the urban setting get at least one vaccine between the age group of zero to five years, but the number goes down to about 61 per cent when it comes to the children being fully vaccinated. Similarly, when it comes to the rural setting, 97 per cent of the children between the age group of zero to five years get at least one vaccine but the number again goes down to 58 per cent, who were fully vaccinated.

What was the idea behind setting up ImmunifyMe? When was it found?
Over three million children die every year, which could easily be prevented by vaccination. Yet, one in every five children remains unimmunised. ImmunifyMe leverages technology to monitor vaccination and bridges the immunisation gap. With a team of diverse background from a Virologist to a Cloud solution architect and a business development professional, who are bound by a single commitment and vision of reducing the immunisation gap, ImmunifyMe was born. The journey began in 2018 and till now ImmunifyMe has been recognised by many national and international bodies and won many grants and awards. It is currently launching its operations in India.

How does ImmunifyMe offer the framework to close the existing immunisation gap?
One of the main reasons for the low immunisation rate in India and many developing countries is that an increasing number of people live under the radar. With the current vaccination record keeping, they are invisible. Further, with outdated, paper-based methods being used, it’s impossible to find unvaccinated children. ImmunifyMe will streamline analytics of vaccination monitoring, record keeping and outreach without adding significant complexity to the workflow; provide accurate and verifiable proof, aggregate data that can easily interoperate with other existing identity management systems, negating the need for each organisation to independently identify beneficiaries, taking timely interventions in outbreak situations, disease surveillance and making policies to bridge the immunisation gap.

In what ways does ImmunifyMe help the organisations that work on vaccination? Name some of these.
Digital record-keeping makes it convenient to track a child’s immunisation and eliminate unnecessary paperwork. ImmunifyMe is convenient for connecting and confidentiality is easier to preserve. It helps forecast the demand and availability of vaccines. Besides, information can be easily and securely shared with medical practitioners, schools and wherever it is necessary. High-quality relevant data produced by immunisation information systems can be used by global and national-level decision-makers to drive resource allocation and other strategic decisions. In case of an adverse effect, ImmunifyMe will also help pharmaceutical companies trace the batch and finally the single vaccine, saving them precious time and millions of dollars in an investigation.

What kind of innovative technology solutions and services do you provide to the children and their caregivers?
While reducing mortality is already reason enough to want to have every child on this planet vaccinated, now we have the added motivation that we are not just saving lives, but also helping to improve many more lives in the process. We are making sure that every child receives all the necessary vaccines and they reach the vaccination clinics on time by sending reminders. Not only that, but we also monitor the growth of the child, social-emotional development, physical, cognitive, communication development and making sure they have a healthy childhood.

How can hospitals, pharma companies and governments benefit through ImmunifyMe?
Government organisations working on vaccination – the data created by ImmunifyMe can be used for decision making and provide proper vaccination to children. The government can easily introduce new vaccines to the existing vaccination schedule just by a request. Information can be easily sent to parents about upcoming vaccination campaigns organised by the Government or NGOs. Instead of umbrella campaigns, they can do targetted campaigns and save money and efforts and make sure children will follow up and complete vaccination. The network created through ImmunifyMe will be huge and the knowledge and information can be easily delivered to end-users by SMS or email.

Apart from it, if there is any adverse effect of the vaccines, it can be traced back to the lot and finally to a single vaccine, saving them precious time and millions of dollars in an investigation.

In terms of financial growth, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
More than 350,000 children are born daily worldwide. Introducing our innovative product for five per cent of the newborns will make us support eight million children. Introducing ImmunifyMe to countries which have a low rate of immunisation and higher non-compliance will drastically improve the immunisation gap and improve the quality of care.

ImmunifyMe is country agnostic and can be replicated worldwide or in any particular region/country with ease. There are over 128 million children being born every year worldwide or 353,000 children every day. There are about 49,500 children being born every day in India alone.

We are looking to make a foothold in the Indian market in the coming two years with around three million children on board. Our plan is to grow beyond India in other SAARC countries in the third year of our operation.

Who are your investors? How are you funding your operations?
We have been fortunate enough to receive grants early in our journey. The first grant of $80,000 we received was from the Government of Chile through its programme Startup Chile. The second grant of $180,000 came from the Government of Luxembourg.

We are also fortunate enough to be invested in, by the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world which is Serum Institute of India, a Cyrun Poonawalla group company. They took equity of 25 per cent in ImmunifyMe. At this moment, when we are launching our operations in India, we are running our finances through the seed funding we received from Serum.

What is your business model?
We have two kinds of business models – the first being B2B2C, in which we tie-up with private paediatricians, hospitals and other child healthcare providers to promote ImmunifyMe application to the parents of children aged between zero to five years.

The second is B2G in which we tie-up with various central and state governments. The world has moved to being digital. Why should our vaccination record still remain on paper?

How many hospitals have you tied up with for vaccine record-keeping? Kindly name them.
Since we are in the process of launching in India, we are concentrated mainly in the north. This includes independent practitioners, doctors and few hospitals. We have also tied-up with Bihar’s largest private medical college, Narayan Medical College and Hospital, and are also working in two blocks in the Rohtas district of Bihar.

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