Texting reminders to people to get vaccinated increased the number of COVID-19 injections by nearly 85%
The key to getting more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 could be as simple as texting reminders, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) tested different types of text memories.
When people received reminders, the number of people who scheduled appointments increased by nearly 85 percent.
In addition, texts that conveyed a sense of ownership of the vaccine were the most effective.
The US has struggled to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine effectively in recent months, with demand for vaccines falling for nearly four months as the number of cases rises.
The most effective SMS reminders, the researchers found, were the ones that gave the recipient a sense of ownership over a vaccine dose.
Researchers, who published their findings Monday in the journal Nature, divided 91,000 unvaccinated participants into five different groups.
Each group was given one of five types of vaccination reminders the team had developed.
One was a simple text reminder to get the vaccine. Another was the same reminder, except it included an informational video about the safety of the vaccines.
The other two groups received messages portraying ownership of the shots.
For example, a person would receive a text message suggesting that a vaccination had already been reserved for them, they just had to make an appointment to “claim” it.
One group received the ownership notice with the informational video, the other did not.
The fifth group received no message at all and was used as a control.
About 7.2 percent of patients in the control group scheduled appointments within six days, without the need for a reminder.
Patients who received a reminder were 84 percent more likely to schedule an appointment within six days, and 13.2 percent made an appointment.
Simple SMS reminders can be a simple, cheap and effective way to increase vaccination rates
About 14 percent of those who received a property reminder were likely to schedule an appointment, compared with about 12 percent of those who received a regular reminder.
Researchers also found that the videos were ineffective in getting people vaccinated, a group with and without the videos posted the same vaccination rate.
They think this is because the videos had relatively low click-through rates and people didn’t even bother to watch them.
“I was surprised that adding an information intervention to an SMS reminder produced no detectable effect on actual vaccination behavior,” said co-author Dr. Hengchen Dai, assistant professor at UCLA.
“It’s very interesting that while a video-based intervention seems to increase vaccination intentions in a hypothetical setting where people are asked to watch the video, this intervention does not bring benefits in the field where people are invited to watch the video.” and where we assess actual behavior.’
The remaining unvaccinated group – about 67,000 people – was divided into two different groups.
Eight days after the first invitation, one group received a second reminder, the other did not.
About one percent of people who received the reminder a second time ended up getting the vaccine within the next six days.
“A simple reminder, which is cost-effective, can prompt people to schedule their appointment,” said Dr. Silvia Saccardo, assistant professor in the Department of Social and Decision-Making Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, and co-author of the paper.
‘Being scheduled for the first do’s was the biggest barrier. Once scheduled, people went to the appointment and then came back for their second dose.’
These simple, yet effective reminders could be a boon to the US vaccine rollout.
After reaching a peak of about 3.5 million doses distributed per day in early April, vaccine rollouts in the country have stalled.
As of late July, fewer than 500,000 doses are being distributed per day and just under 70 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Less than half of Americans are fully vaccinated.
The vast majority of unvaccinated Americans have opened the door to another wave of cases in the summer as the Indian ‘Delta’ variety has sparked a wave of cases across the country.
“The Delta variant is causing increased COVID infections around the world, and currently in the United States, more than 97 percent of COVID-related hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people,” said Dr. Daniel Croymans, a primary care physician at UCLA Health and co-author of the paper.
“Our research highlights that marrying SMS, a widely accessible technology, in addition to behavioral science, can help deliver messages encouraging others to get vaccinated – helping to protect our community and our economy.
On Sunday, America recorded 25,141 new coronavirus cases with a seven-day moving average of 79,951, the highest average since Feb. 16.
It also marks a 312 percent increase from the 19,400 average three weeks ago.