Text messages can remind parents to get their children their second doses of their flu vaccines when they are suggested, according to researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center. The researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial in Northern Manhattan during the 2012-2013 flu season in three different pediatric clinics that were affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center. The results of the text message correspondence study were published online in the medical journal Pediatrics.
Pediatricians determined that 660 families required two doses of the flu vaccine during that season. According to Medical News Today, most of the families were insured through the government. The researchers said that 71.9 percent of the participating parents believed that their child was at least partially protected from the flu after one flu vaccine, but the researchers felt that one dose was inadequate to provide protection from the flu in this group of children.
The CDC explains in detail when pediatricians generally recommend two doses rather than just one dose of the flu vaccine for children. The second dose must be given after four weeks has passed since the first dose of the vaccine.
In order to discover if text messages could be an effective way to remind parents to get their children vaccinated according to the recommended schedule, the researchers assigned children aging from six-months-old to eight-years-old into three groups. The first group would receive an educational text message that included information about why the pediatricians felt the second dose was important. The second group would receive a conventional text message that only reminded the adult of when and where to get their child a second dose of the vaccine. The final group would receive only a written reminder.
The study found that when adults were sent educational text messages, they were significantly more likely to bring their children in for a second dose of the vaccine. 72.7 percent of the group that were sent educational text messages about the vaccine returned for a second flu shot. Of the group that got only the text message reminder, 66.7 percent of them returned to get their children second doses of the flu vaccine. Meanwhile, only 57.1 percent of the adults who were given only a written reminder returned for the second flu vaccine.
“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,” Dr. Melissa Stockwell, principal investigator of the text message research, stated.
Stockwell said that many children who need two doses are not fully protected from the influenza virus until two weeks after getting a second dose, though strangely, in the study, participants were considered compliant with second-dose requirements if they received their second dose by April 30. The Inquisitr recently reported that the CDC considers the flu season active between November and March.
“This randomized controlled trial provides valuable information for establishing best practices for influenza vaccine text message reminders,” Dr. Stockwell said. “Important next steps will be to assess the impact of text message vaccine reminders in other populations as well as for other vaccines.”
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