Texts Prompt More Parents To Complete Flu Vaccinations for Children

January 6, 2015 in News

Text messages with reminders and additional health information more effectively prompted parents to obtain a second dose of the influenza vaccine for their children than conventional text messages and written reminders, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, MedPage Today reports (Walker, MedPage Today, 12/29/14).

According to NPR’s “Shots,” children younger than nine years old need two doses of the flu vaccine to protect them from the virus. However, only about half of such children receive both doses (Singh, “Shots,” NPR, 12/29/14).

Details of Study

For the study, researchers implemented a randomized, controlled trial at three community-based pediatric clinics in New York City during the 2012-2013 flu season. The study involved 660 families with children ages six months to eight years old who had received their first flu vaccine dose at one of the three sites and were due for a second dose.

Each family was randomly assigned into one of three groups:

  • Those who received only a written reminder;
  • Those who received a standard text message reminder in addition to a written reminder; and
  • Those who received educational text messages that included a reminder and extra information, in addition to a written reminder.

The families that received both types of text messages received five reminders, including three before their children were due for the second dose, one message the day after the dose was due and one two weeks later (MedPage Today, 12/29/14).

Findings

The study found that families who received the educational text message reminder were significantly more likely to take their children in for the second dose of the vaccine. Specifically:

  • 72.7% of children whose families received the educational text message received the second dose;
  • 66.7% of children whose families received the conventional text message received the second dose; and
  • 57.1% of children whose families received only the written reminder got a second dose (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 1/2).

Reasons Educational Text Messages Were More Effective

According to lead study author Melissa Stockwell, the educational text messages likely were most effective because they conveyed to parents a sense of urgency (“Shots,” NPR, 12/29/14). Among parents who received text messages:

  • 60.8% said the messages were either the main reason or part of the reason they took their children to get a second dose; and
  • 70.1% said the messages made them bring their children in sooner (Health Data Management, 1/2).
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