KENYA – Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), NEC Corporation (NEC) and Nagasaki University, Japan, have developed a digital biometric-based vaccination management system for newborn children in Kenya.

The digital system being provided by NEC, a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies, and KEMRI, one of Africa’s leading research Institutions, will effectively and seamlessly manage vaccination history and scheduling using fingerprint identification for newborn children and voice recognition for caregivers.

This technology marks the first time that biometric identification is being used at a hospital to identify newborn children at the time of vaccination, including those immediately after delivery.

As of November 2022, data from more than 300 caregivers and newborns had been registered, including the vaccination histories of more than 150 newborns.

“We are excited that KEMRI together with its partners, is spearheading this landmark study that identifies newborns using a biometric and a vaccination management system that is not only in real time,” said Prof. Sam Kariuki, Acting Director General, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).

“But is also expected to support policy and action towards the attainment of better health outcomes and Universal Health Coverage.

“I am happy to announce that this tool will be validated by KEMRI researchers in partnership with Kinango Sub-County Hospital in Kwale, NEC Corporation and Nagasaki University.”

The new technology combines fingerprint identification for children and voice recognition for caregivers to confirm not only their identity, but also to reliably manage vaccination histories and schedules, thereby promoting the implementation of appropriate vaccinations for newborns and children during the first 24 months of life.

Going forward, demonstration tests that network among multiple hospitals will begin, aiming for full-scale introduction throughout Kenya by the end of 2023, and more international deployment in the future.

“I expect that this vaccination management system, including newborn fingerprint biometric technology, will expand the coverage of vaccinations for children under 24 months old through accurate identification methods for mothers and children in Kenya,” said Prof. Miriam Khamadi Were, Laureate, 1st Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize.

“I also express great expectations for this research to act as a guideline for precise vaccination management featuring newborn and caregiver identification to become an important contributor to Universal Health Coverage.”

Validation of this system is taking place through KEMRI with a clinical trial that began in September 2022 at the Kinango Sub-County Hospital in Kwale and initial results are very encouraging.

The system utilizes voice recognition to identify caregivers, as well as fingerprint patterns to ensure that newborns are appropriately matched with the identified caregivers.

Since voice recognition can be performed almost instantaneously, this system can minimize the burden placed on caregivers. Medical institutions can also introduce voice recognition with little to no change to existing procedures.

Rather than using conventional fingerprint authentication methods to identify newborns, researchers developed a new method with which fingerprint pattern information is extracted from fingerprint images and a newborn child can be identified by combining fingerprint pattern data from multiple fingers.

In December last year, Japan’s Nagasaki University announced that it will work with KEMRI Graduate School (KGS) in high-level training of KEMRI and Kenyan scientists in vaccine development.

The training will be on the whole vaccine development pipeline from basic science and product development to clinical trials.

The vaccine development training will involve the Japanese and Kenyan pharmaceutical industries partnership.

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