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SMS Limits Influenza

SMS Limits Influenza

(ePharmaNews) – Using text messages in health education may be the key to increase awareness about the necessity of some vaccines, a new study says.

The study, which was published in JAMA, the parents found that parents who received text messages during the influenza season were more likely to bring their children to vaccinate them against influenza compared to those who did not. This increase comes in spite of a reminder phone call is done routinely to every parent when the season starts, but the main problem in phone calls that it is not effective in encouraging parents to take their children to vaccinations centers, especially if they are from the low socio-economic class.

"We chose low socioeconomic income families since that is a population for whom vaccine reminder-recalls using traditional methods such as automated phone call and letters have not worked well.  We would expect text message reminders to work in higher socioeconomic income families as well since so many families have cell phones and use text messaging.  Additionally, in those populations, vaccine reminder-recalls have generally been effective." Says Melissa Stockwell, the lead researcher, in an email to ePharmaNews.

The researchers followed 9000 children of low socio-economic families who ages between 6 months and 18 years, seen in 4 different clinics in New York during the flu season in 2010 _between October and March_ . All parents received reminder phone calls as usual, while half of them received a five text messages that explain the necessity of flu vaccines and the dangerousness of catching flu in infants; the messages also contain the dates when vaccines were available in clinics. Two more SMSs were sent to parents who did not bring their children till January.

Researchers found that 44% of parents who received SMS did vaccinate their children compared to only 4% of people who did not receive those messages. The researchers believe that texting is a better tool than calling because it reaches the parents specifically and can be saved in the mobile devices.

"Text messaging to increase vaccination coverage has numerous strengths. It can reach large populations, and for vaccines like influenza recommended for the majority of the population, even small increases in vaccination rates can lead to large numbers of protected individuals" Writes the author in the published study.

The researchers argue that the cost-effectiveness of this method is high, as it prevents the amount of money used to treat influenza and its complications.

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Prepared by: Basel AlJunaidy

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