Sending text messages encourages low-income, minority parents to vaccinate their children against influenza and may help prevent the spread of infection in underserved urban communities, a new study shows.
Lead author Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital, presented her findings March 28, 2011, at the 45th National Immunization Conference in Washington, DC. “It seems that text messaging is efficacious for young children,” she explained to attendees.
Dr. Stockwell studied 9213 children, aged 6 months to 18 years, who received care at community clinics in New York City. Parents received 5 weekly text messages, in English or Spanish, beginning in October and ending in mid-November. Texts provided education about vaccine importance and informed parents of the time and location of influenza vaccine fairs.
Parents not in the intervention group received “standard care,” which included automated telephone reminders and fliers posted in community clinics. Nearly half (45.2%) of children whose parents got the texts were vaccinated by the study’s cutoff date of November 15, 2010, compared with 38.8% of children whose parents did not.
Although the difference is small, text messaging is a scalable intervention and could make a substantial impact if applied to a large population with historically low rates of vaccination, Dr. Stockwell concluded.