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Jan 10, 2015 02:29 AM EST

Flu Season: Text Reminders May Improve Vaccination Rates


Text message reminders may improve vaccination rates among young children, according to a recent study. 

Researchers from Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center previously found that text messages improved second-dose influenza vaccination rates among young children who require two doses of influenza vaccine, Medical News Today reported.

Children between 6 months and 8 years old are required to take two does of the influenza vaccine. The first dose primes the immune system, and the second dose offers immune protection.  However, it can be hard for families to bring in their children twice for vaccination.

Children who do not get both doses, which are administered, at least 28 days apart, are not fully protected, according to Time.

Dr. Melissa Stockwell, principal investigator of the study, made the analogy that only receiving one dose off the flu vaccine is like "wearing half a bicycle helmet" for children who require two does.

"Even in children who ultimately receive two doses in a season, the time interval between doses is often beyond the recommended 28 days," Stockwell is quoted as saying by Medical News Today. "This leaves many unprotected when the virus begins circulating."

For the study, researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial during the 2012-13 flu season across three community-based pediatric clinics in Northern Manhattan, involving children from 660 families who required a second dose of flu vaccine.               

The participants were split into three groups:  the first received an educational text message (the text included info on why the second dose is important), the second group received a conventional reminder text message and the third group received a written reminder only.

Researchers found that kids whose families received educational test messages were nearly 73 percent more likely to get their second dose. In comparison, 66.7 percent of kids in the conventional text group got their second flu shot, and 57 percent of kids in the written reminder group got theirs.

The parents involved in the study said that, as well as the text messages providing useful reminders, they also liked how the messages provided information in a quick way that did not require talking to anyone.

"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," concludes Stockwell.

The findings are detailed in the journal Pediatrics. 

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