According to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, parents getting a text message reminder increases the chance of their kids getting a flu shot, which is important because children and teenagers are the mostly likely to pass the bug around. According to the researchers from the U.S., this is the first large, population-based randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of text message vaccine reminders.
The researchers tested out a text message reminder service in a group of low-income urban parents and 9,213 children and teenagers, aged 6 months to 18 years. Eighty percent of this group had not been vaccinated before. As well as the standard telephone reminders, some of the group also got up to 5 once-weekly text reminders, which included simply-written information that targeted common vaccine myths.
At the end of the study, more of the children and young people in the text message group had been vaccinated than in the group that only got phone calls as reminders--27% compared with 23%.
While there was an increase, the difference was small and the overall rate of vaccination was low--at the highest, less than a third. In an accompanying editorial, the authors suggested that including all opening hours, not just the Saturday ones, might increase uptake, as might including a phone number or including a link to an online calendar.
However, text messaging is quick, easy and affordable for providers. It's also accessible for people receiving the messages, including those unwilling or unable to read large amounts of text, and is a way to get the message on vaccination out to people who may not have access to the internet. Further studies could try to determine how this type of service could be used to increase the overall uptake of vaccines, perhaps linked with an email campaign. According to the authors of the editorial: "Within the next few years, the novel findings presented in this study will also become a routine component of the complex system of health care delivery."