GlaxoSmithKline has formed an alliance with Vodafone that aims to accelerate the uptake of childhood vaccinations in Africa.

The drug giant said the partnership aims to utilise innovative mobile technologies to protect more children from infectious diseases, as it is estimated that up to a fifth of children around the globe still do not have access to basic vaccines.

"The proliferation of mobile phones in Africa offers an opportunity to create innovative and cost-effective ways to address barriers to universal vaccination," the firm said, explaining the rationale for the move.

The alliance will initially focus on a one-year project in Mozambique, with support from Save The Children and in collaboration with the country's Ministry of Health.

This will explore whether mobile technology solutions could boost the proportion of children covered by vaccination in Mozambique by an extra 5%-10%.

SMS alerts

Under the scheme, mothers will be alerted by SMS to the availability and importance of immunisation services on offer, and health workers will be given smart phones with software enabling them to get in touch with mothers, view and record vaccination histories, and schedule vaccinations.

In addition, healthcare facilities will be prompted to report on vaccination stock levels by SMS, in the hope that this will improve supply chain management, GSK said.

The pilot will run in up to 100 clinics and will include mothers using all mobile phone networks and any selected vaccine.

This is not GSK's first venture into the world of mobile technology solutions to combat healthcare issues. In one project, the company has been active in an anti-counterfeiting scheme in Africa using a code-text message system to check whether medicines are genuine.