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Texting can Increase Flu Vaccination Rates for Pregnant Women

Update Date: Jan 11, 2014 11:11 AM EST

Every year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other agencies or facilities recommend people to get the flu vaccine. The vaccine can protect at-risk groups, which include young children, seniors and pregnant women, from the potentially fatal consequences of the flu. In a new study, researchers discovered a way to improve vaccination rates specifically for pregnant women. The researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health reported that text messaging acting as reminders can boost the flu vaccination rate for pregnant women.

"Vaccination during pregnancy helps to protect newborns," said Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH, Mailman School assistant professor of Population and Family Health and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Columbia and a physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. "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."

For this study, the researchers tracked 1,187 pregnant women from five clinics in New York City. The clinics were community-based and a part of an ambulatory care network, which aims to provide the flu vaccine to pregnant women. The women were divided into an intervention group and a control group.

The intervention group sent women five weekly text messages that informed them about the importance of getting vaccinated. The messages started in mid-September in 2011. The group also sent the women two text messages that reminded them about their appointments. Both groups, however, did receive one standard and automated telephone message reminding them about their appointments.

The researchers calculated that women in the intervention group had a higher vaccination rate. The team reported that women who received text messages were 30 percent more likely to get vaccinated. The researchers found that women starting their third trimester benefited the most from the intervention. Roughly 61.9 percent of these women in the intervention group got vaccinated in comparison to the 49 percent of the women from the control group that did. The researchers hope that their findings could help improve vaccination rates for other groups as well.

The article, "Influenza Vaccine Text Message Reminders for Urban, Low-Income Pregnant Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial," was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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