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Text message reminders boost flu vaccine rates in pregnant women

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A study by researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) evaluated the impact of text messaging reminders for influenza vaccine in a low-income obstetric population. The findings showed that sending text messages to this population of women resulted in an uptick in influenza vaccination, especially for those who received the messages early in their third trimester. Results from the paper, “Influenza Vaccine Text Message Reminders for Urban, Low-Income Pregnant Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” were published in the American Journal of Public Health, in a special issue on the latest methods and practices in improving birth outcomes.

The researchers followed 1187 obstetric patients from five community-based clinics in New York City that are part of an ambulatory-care network that routinely provides influenza vaccinations to pregnant women.  Women in the intervention group received five weekly text messages about the importance of the vaccine starting in mid-September 2011 and two text message appointment reminders. Both groups received standard automated telephone appointment reminders.

The study found that text messaging increased vaccination coverage. Adjusting for gestational age and number of clinic visits, women who received the intervention were 30 percent more likely to be vaccinated. A subgroup of women early in the third trimester had the highest intervention effect—61.9 percent of the intervention group was vaccinated, compared with 49 percent for the control group.

Vaccine text message reminder-recalls in this population have been limited. Earlier studies by some of the Columbia investigators looked at text messaging vaccine reminder-recalls to improve influenza vaccination rates in pediatric and adolescent populations.

“Vaccination during pregnancy helps to protect newborns,” said Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH,Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Population and Family Health at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, with a joint appointment at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. “To achieve protection before influenza begins circulating in the community, we strongly recommend that women receive influenza vaccination during pregnancy and as soon as the vaccine becomes available in the fall.”


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