SMS reminders help boost flu vaccination rates

Text messages can help increase flu vaccination rates in young children, researchers from Columbia University Medical Center and the Mailman School of Public Health have found.

During the flu season in 2012 and 2013, parents were sent text messages to remind them to take their child to receive their second dose of the vaccine after they had received the first. Researchers found that follow-up rates increased with the use of text message reminders.

The second dose is needed in order to properly protect the children from the virus, and when this additional information was included in the SMS message, parents were even more likely to take their child to receive their follow-up vaccination treatment, reports

In fact, the parents who received the more detailed text message were 72.7 per cent more likely to bring their child back to receive the second round of treatment, compared with parents who were not sent a reminder. Parents who just received the standard reminder were 66.7 per cent more likely to attend their child’s follow-up appointment, whereas parents who were given a written reminder were only 57.1 per cent likely to remember to go.

Around 70 per cent of parents said the text message reminder helped them bring their child for their second dose sooner, reports This is positive news, as in many cases where children have received two doses the time interval is beyond the recommended 28 days, leaving them unprotected.

Melissa Stockwell, assistant professor of population and family health at the Mailman School of Public Health and the lead author of the study, commented: “Text message programs like these allow for healthcare providers to care for their patients even when they are not in front of them in the office, somewhat like a modern day house call.”