A specially developed ‘smart indicator’ technology from Cambridge innovator Timestrip is being adopted in developing countries where missed vaccinations are common.
Working with the Trust for Vaccines & Immunization (TVI), a not-for-profit organisation, Timestrip technology has been used to create a set of Vaccine Indicator Reminder (VIR) bands that are worn by newborn babies to remind mothers when vaccinations are due.
The operation of the devices is based on predictable chemical processes, so no moving parts or electronics are involved – providing a simple, failsafe operation that is very easy to use.
The new bands are activated simply by pressing on them lightly. An irreversible chemical process, based on a special food grade dye, then provides a highly visible countdown to the next vaccine due date.
Three different colour bands are used: at birth, and at the 6, 10 and 14 weeks’ immunisation schedule. The infant receives the first VIR (Yellow) Band after receiving the birth dose of vaccines, and two more bands at 6 (Purple) and 10 (Aqua) weeks’ visits.
Once the infants receive the fourth dose of vaccines at 14 weeks of age, they are protected against nine vaccine preventable diseases, ensuring their survival and protection from lifelong disability. In Pakistan for example, over the first 14 weeks of a baby’s life, four sets of vaccines are advised, yet these are often missed: estimates suggest that up to 60 per cent of infants do not complete the immunisation schedule.
Dr Noor Sabah Rakhshani from TVI created the potentially life saving concept of the smart bands, and was the recipient of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Award to bring the idea to fruition.
“We are taking small but very important steps in our quest to protect children from vaccine preventable illnesses across Pakistan and around the world,” said Dr Rakhshani.
“The environmentally friendly, low cost and widely used Timestrip technology has made it possible for the VIR band to be tested in low income communities in Pakistan and Nigeria. I am thrilled to be working with the team.”
Timestrip CEO, Reuben Isbitsky added: “We are absolutely delighted to be helping bring about change in this vital area of work. Our history of innovation in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors, including the development of temperature monitoring products for blood products and vaccines, has meant we were able to support the creation of a simple but life-saving product that will help millions of children who suffer through incomplete vaccination regimes.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Reuben Isbitsky
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