Text Reminders Help More Children Get Second Dose of Flu Vaccine

January 3, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

A new study out of the Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center has found that text message reminders increase the chances that children will receive their second dose of the influenza vaccine.

A new study out of the Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center has found that text message reminders increase the chances that children will receive their second dose of the influenza vaccine.

The researchers also found the texts helped bring the children in sooner to be vaccinated, according to the study, which was published in Pediatrics.

What was most encouraging was when educational information about the importance of the second dose was placed in the text message, the study found.

The children involved in the study ranged from 6 months to 8 years of age, and their families were given an educational text message, a conventional text message, or a written reminder. The written reminder was given to the families after the first dose of the flu vaccine.

Children whose families received the educational text message were significantly more likely to come in; 72.7% of them got a second dose, compared with 66.7% of the conventional text message receivers and 57.1% of the written reminder receivers.

Parents praised the texts for 3 reasons: they reminded them to go back for the second dose, they communicated the message quickly and efficiently, and they were an act of someone “caring.”

Around 60% credited the texts as the main reason or part of the reason why they brought their child in for a second dose, and 70.1% said the texts encouraged them to bring their children in sooner.

While young children who need 2 doses of the vaccine are at a greater risk of contracting the flu, it has been shown that typically fewer than half of those who receive the first dose come back to get the second dose.

“Text message programs like these allow for health care 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,” said Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH, assistant professor of population and family health at the Mailman School of Public Health and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical Center, and principal investigator, in a press release.