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Text Messaging for Flu Vaccine

August 15, 2022

This month, we have two articles in Pediatrics that discuss strategies to improve influenza vaccine uptake.

This week’s article is entitled, “Text Message Reminders for the Second Dose of influenza vaccine for children: An RCT,” by Dr. Melissa Stockwell and colleagues at Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, and 2 pediatric practices (10.1542/peds.2022-056967).  

This randomized controlled trial focused on children who required 2 doses of influenza vaccine in a single season, as only half of these children receive both doses. They enrolled 2,086 patients at 50 pediatric practices through the AAP’s Pediatric Research in Office Settings practice-based research network. Half of the children received usual care (which, depending on the practice, included no reminder; letter, phone, email or patient portal message; or a written card given at the first dose), and parents of the other half received automated, personalized text messages with educational information and reminders.

There was a small but significant increase in receipt of the 2nd flu vaccine dose by season end (83.8% vs. 80.9%), but a more impressive increase in timely receipt, meaning receipt by day 42 (62.4% vs. 55.7%).

In an invited commentary, Rebecca Ortiz, PhD from Syracuse University and Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD from the University of Alabama point out that personalizing the text messages with the patient’s name, gender, and the practice name may be an important contributor to the program’s success, and some practices may not have the capability to do this (10.1542/peds.2022-057363). They also note that the parents receiving the messages are those who have already agreed to the first flu vaccine for their child, so vaccine hesitancy was not an issue here.

Nonetheless, sending personalized messages to your patients may be a cost-effective reminder strategy. You could start with 2nd flu vaccines, and then expand to other types of reminders if you find this strategy helpful.

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