Study: SMS reminders up flu vaccine adoption

By Brian Dolan

A similar service for expectant mothers

A physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital found that sending text messages to predominantly Spanish-speaking, urban, low-income parents increased the chances those parents would bring their children in to receive a flu vaccine. Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital noted that the population, which included 9,213 children aged 6 months to 18 years old, generally had very low coverage rates. The study, which was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) took place in an underserved community in New York City.

Traditional methods for immunization reminders have had low efficacy in low-income populations, according to Stockwell.

Half of the children's parents received five text messages each week from October 2010 to mid-November that included information about the why vaccines are important and where flu vaccine clinics were located. The messages were sent in English or Spanish. The results examined how many of the children received the vaccine from the start of the program until February 28, 2011.

Overall, 57.4 percent of those children in the intervention group received the vaccine compared to 50.4 percent of those in the control group.

“It seems that text messaging is efficacious for young children. While the difference was 7 to 9 percentage points, even that change could make a real difference in coverage if used in a large population,” Stockwell said according to a report over at . “There need to be more studies looking at this.”

HRSA is the same government entity currently evaluating the efficacy of the widely publicized Text4Baby reminder program that could lead to similar initiatives out of the HHS' newly formed Text4Health group. Might this study be the beginnings of Text4FluShot?

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