Are your kids getting their flu vaccines this year?
Text messaging may be offering a simple new way to make
sure the answer to that question is "yes."
For children between the ages of six months and eight
years, the flu vaccine must be administered in two doses
delivered at least 28 days apart; the first vaccine
primes the child's young immune system, and the second
strives to offer immunity to the year's upcoming flu
virus. Should a child miss one of these doses, they
will not have full immunity to the illness.
Though a child's health is paramount to a parent, requiring
two visits a month apart to a health care provider can
present complications. Scheduling difficulties may arise
if parents have work schedules that conflict with a
doctor's hours, particularly if the child's parents
cannot take time off work. At the least, two separate
appointments may mark a scheduling inconvenience. Additionally,
two separate doses can simply represent two separate
appointments that may be forgotten about or cancelled.
To ensure parents are diligent about bringing children
to appointments, it seems important that parents understand
why the second dose of the vaccine is necessary. After
all, many parents may be inclined to view a second vaccine
superfluous when the adults are only getting one shot
to ward off the flu. But are conventional modes of educating
parents about medicine the best way to reach them? Researchers
from Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University
Medical Center conducted a study, published in Pediatrics
in 2014, to put this question to the test.
The researchers focused on developing educational text
messages, and divided participants in their study into
three groups: one that received conventional written
reminders of appointments for the vaccine, one that
received reminders in the form of text messages, and
one that received educational texts that detailed the
importance of receiving both doses between the ages
of six months and eight years.
The results speak clearly: of the group that received
the educational texts, a large proportion of 72.7% of
the children whose families received the texts received
their second vaccine. This figure contrasts with the
66.7% of children whose families received simple reminder
texts who received a second dose, and the 57.1% of the
children whose families who received written reminders
who got their second dose. While baseline compliance
is decent, with the majority of children in control
groups receiving a second vaccine, it is clear that
the educational texts are beneficial, increasing compliance
with the two-vaccine series.
A survey of participants affirms the efficacy of the
educational texts: almost 61% of the parents in the
educational text message group said the texts were either
part of why they brought their children in for a second
vaccine, or the primary reason they did so. Additionally,
more than 70% of participants in the experimental group
said the texts motivated them to come in sooner for
a second dose. Overall, the families viewed the messages
as helpful and an indicator that someone cared about
their child's wellbeing.
With text messaging rising as a top mode of communication,
the use of texting to advance health and educate people
becomes an increasingly promising avenue for health
care providers, and, with developments like these educational
texts, the children they serve.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.