Texting technology doesn't prompt pregnant women to get flu shot

Text messaging prompts were not effective at increasing influenza vaccination rates among a low-income, urban, ambulatory obstetric population, according to results from a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The objective of the study was to "estimate whether text messages sent to ambulatory pregnant women could improve influenza vaccine uptake." For the study, obstetric patients at less than 28 weeks of gestation were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial from an academic center's outpatient clinic during the 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 flu seasons.

Participants in the trial were randomized to receive twelve weekly text messages encouraging general pregnancy health or general pregnancy health plus influenza vaccination. Of the 216 women enrolled in the trial, 204 were available for intention-to-treat analysis (100 for general pregnancy health, 104 for general plus flu).

The overall influenza vaccination rate among participants was 32 percent with no difference between participants in the general pregnancy health group compared with general pregnancy plus flu vaccination group.

"Ongoing efforts are needed to improve vaccine uptake among pregnant women unsure about or unwilling to receive influenza vaccination," states the article.

Study participants, who were primarily African American (66 percent) with low educational attainment (90 percent equivalent to or less than high school education), completed preintervention and postintervention surveys about preventive health beliefs.

A pilot study published in November 2012 found texting to be a "promising program" for new mothers in which "exposure to the text messages was associated with changes in specific beliefs targeted by the messages."

In that study, about 80 percent of participants were of Hispanic origin. For those who had a high school education or greater, the study observed a significantly higher overall agreement to attitudes against alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and also observed a significant improvement of attitudes toward alcohol consumption from baseline to follow-up.

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