Text Messages to Parents Promote Flu Shots for Children

Educational messages with clinic information increase vaccinations; but overall rates remain low

TUESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- A text messaging-based intervention increases influenza vaccination compared with usual care in a low-income, urban population, although overall rates of vaccination remain low, according to a study published in the April 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Melissa S. Stockwell, M.D., M.P.H., of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 9,213 children and adolescents (aged 6 months to 18 years) during the 2010 to 2011 influenza season. The primary analysis included 7,574 of these participants who had not received influenza vaccine prior to study initiation. Parents of children assigned to the intervention received up to five weekly text messages providing educational information and vaccination clinic information in addition to usual care (automated telephone reminder).

The researchers found that study participants were mainly minorities, with 58 percent from Spanish-speaking families, and 88 percent were publicly insured. At the end of the study period, significantly more participants in the intervention versus usual-care group had received an influenza vaccine (43.6 versus 39.9 percent; relative rate ratio [RRR], 1.09; P = 0.001). At an earlier review date, prior to influenza activity, significantly more participants in the intervention group compared with the usual-care group had received the influenza vaccine (27.1 versus 22.8 percent; RRR, 1.19; P < 0.001).

"Among children and adolescents in a low-income, urban population, a text messaging intervention compared with usual care was associated with an increased rate of influenza vaccination," the authors write. "However, the overall influenza vaccination rate remained low."

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