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Mark Thomas, VaxTrac Founder

A Message from the Executive Director

VaxTrac can trace its history back to a small village in South Sudan in 2009. I was wrapping up a career in management consulting, though at the time I didn’t know it was nearly the end. I had spent the last few years helping large, wealthy companies become marginally larger and wealthier, helping myself in the process become somewhat disillusioned. So here I was in South Sudan, searching for something; some way to bring my passion for innovation and impact together and more than anything, a sense for someone’s reality so different than my own.

We were being shown around a clinic by Daniel, the local doctor. Surviving conflict, drought and famine, he eventually earned his medical degree abroad, effectively a golden ticket out of that life. Instead, he was here: in a dusty, remote clinic trying to have an impact, if even just one child at a time.

Daniel was working tirelessly to distribute vaccines to the children in his community. He didn’t know who was who and who needed which vaccines. Children were coming from different villages and at different ages. Even with his deep skill and even deeper commitment, he could not overcome the obstacles of a broken system. As a result, the children in this clinic, like the 20 million children around the world every year, didn’t get the vaccines they needed to protect them against life-threatening diseases.

Watching this unfold and talking to Daniel, I was stunned by the inequity of vaccine delivery.  Here were children that—solely as a result of where they were born!—could not get the single most affordable and effective medical intervention ever discovered. The appeal of vaccines is that they also have the potential to be the most equitable. Everyone gets a shot in the arm.  Rich or poor, insured or uninsured, urban or rural; walk into a clinic almost anywhere in the world and everyone can get the same benefit.

I’m not naïve; development is hard work, and it attempts to make progress on a number of the world’s most unsolvable problems. This was not one of those. Getting vaccines to the children who need them isn’t rocket science. It’s not easy, but it is achievable if people have the right tools at their disposal. And that’s where VaxTrac came in.

Those tools didn’t exist, but the technology required to build them was ubiquitous. We needed a way to access and display information that was easy to use for busy health workers and that was well-suited for the realities of rural clinics. So we turned to mobile technology. We needed a way to identify a mother and child to look up their health record when they came in. So we used the one identifier that you always have but you never have to carry: fingerprints. All we needed to do was connect the right pieces in the right way and we could make a huge contribution to a problem that affects the lives of millions of children.

Where we started is still what we focus on today. We use appropriate and accessible technology; we provide tools for countries to support the technology; and we rigorously evaluate our impact, always looking for ways to improve.

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Mark Thomas, VaxTrac Founder