Context: Influenza infection results in substantial costs, morbidity, and mortality. Vaccination against influenza is particularly important in children and adolescents who are a significant source of transmission to other high-risk populations, yet pediatric and adolescent vaccine coverage remains low. Traditional vaccine reminders have had a limited effect on low-income populations; however, text messaging is a novel, scalable approach to promote influenza vaccination.
Objective: To evaluate targeted text message reminders for low-income, urban parents to promote receipt of influenza vaccination among children and adolescents.
Design, setting, and participants: Randomized controlled trial of 9213 children and adolescents aged 6 months to 18 years receiving care at 4 community-based clinics in the United States during the 2010-2011 influenza season. Of the 9213 children and adolescents, 7574 had not received influenza vaccine prior to the intervention start date and were included in the primary analysis.
Intervention: Parents of children assigned to the intervention received up to 5 weekly immunization registry-linked text messages providing educational information and instructions regarding Saturday clinics. Both the intervention and usual care groups received the usual care, an automated telephone reminder, and access to informational flyers posted at the study sites.
Main outcome measures: Receipt of an influenza vaccine dose recorded in the immunization registry via an electronic health record by March 31, 2011. Receipt was secondarily assessed at an earlier fall review date prior to typical widespread influenza activity.
Results: Study children and adolescents were primarily minority, 88% were publicly insured, and 58% were from Spanish-speaking families. As of March 31, 2011, a higher proportion of children and adolescents in the intervention group (43.6%; n = 1653) compared with the usual care group (39.9%; n = 1509) had received influenza vaccine (difference, 3.7% [95% CI, 1.5%-5.9%]; relative rate ratio [RRR], 1.09 [95% CI, 1.04-1.15]; P = .001). At the fall review date, 27.1% (n = 1026) of the intervention group compared with 22.8% (n = 864) of the usual care group had received influenza vaccine (difference, 4.3% [95% CI, 2.3%-6.3%]; RRR, 1.19 [95% CI, 1.10-1.28]; P < .001).
Conclusions: Among children and adolescents in a low-income, urban population, a text messaging intervention compared with usual care was associated with an increased rate of influenza vaccination. However, the overall influenza vaccination rate remained low.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01146912.