Cornell grad looks to change the way parents remember vaccine schedules

While spending a summer in Peru after her sophomore year at Cornell University, Lauren Braun came up with an idea that could change the way parents in developing countries around the world remember their children's vaccination needs.

Her concept--a simple bracelet with symbols and numbers intended to bypass language barriers and illiteracy--reminds parents which vaccines their children need with images, and when they need the jabs with numbers representing months after birth. And her idea has attracted high-profile attention, too, netting her nonprofit startup Alma Sana a $100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

After a vaccine is administered, nurses use a small hole puncher to indicate the child's vaccination status on the bracelet.

Alma Sana founder Lauren Braun

"You can see how excited moms are to use the bracelets because, maybe for the first time ever, they are empowered with full understanding of their children's vaccinations, and that knowledge enables them to be more engaged in their children's health," Braun told the Cornell Chronicle.

Alma Sana completed an initial test in Peru and Ecuador through the Gates grant, following about 150 mothers for 6 months. The group found that "moms overwhelmingly preferred using the bracelets as vaccine reminders compared to the government vaccine card and they would continue the bracelet in the future if given the opportunity," Braun said in a video on Alma Sana's website.

The idea could prove to be a boon to vaccines companies, as well, which are constantly seeking to increase sales and uptake in emerging markets amid the challenges that come there.

The bracelet is to be worn from birth to age four, with the hope that more children live to age 5; one out of 5 children who die before age 5 die from vaccine-preventable disease, Braun said.

An upcoming Phase II trial will look at effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and rate changes in vaccine schedules completed, timeliness of vaccines and overall coverage. It's the "last step" before the group and its partners can scale up the idea, Braun said in the video.

- here's the Cornell Chronicle story
- and Alma Sana's website