Experts to use SMS reminders to boost immunisation drive

Most mothers in rural areas have access to mobile phones.

Tuesday February 16 2016

An immunisation campaign in Eldoret town. Health experts plan to use SMS reminders to mothers to boost immunisation drives in the counties. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

An immunisation campaign in Eldoret town. Health experts plan to use SMS reminders to mothers to boost immunisation drives in the counties. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ELIZABETH MERAB
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Experts will now be sending mothers Short Message Services (SMSs) to remind them to take their children for immunisation.

A new study carried out in Western region explored the viability of using the mobile phones to improve immunisation in counties.

According to the study titled The Feasibility of mHealth Interventions to Improve Immunization Timeliness and Coverage, most mothers in rural areas have access to mobile phones and had received SMSs previously.

This indicates that there is great potential for the mobile-based intervention to improve immunisation coverage.

The researchers have discovered that by sending SMS reminders, the number of women taking their children for vaccination has significantly increased.

SMS REMINDERS

The mHealth was tried among mothers in rural Western Kenya and at least 55 per cent of them owned mobile phones, 76 per cent received SMSs and 54 per cent had sent SMSs in the past week, just before survey.

“Women in monogamous marriages and those with higher socioeconomic status had more access to mobile phones,” the study says.

However, unequal access to mobile phones and lack of proper framing of SMS reminders, as well as language barriers and inappropriate content were identified as challenges to the plan.

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014 indicates that the country’s vaccination coverage has increased from 77 per cent in 2008/2009 to 79 per cent in 2014, with central Kenya leading the pack at 90 per cent. North Eastern lags behind at 51 per cent.

Vaccines are effective for reducing childhood illnesses and deaths. Immunization is estimated to  save over 2.5 million lives per year in the world.

Despite their life-saving potential, the research indicated that between 1995 and 2006, about 24 million infants in low-and middle-income countries did not receive all the scheduled vaccines and if they were vaccinated, they often were vaccinated late.

The findings of the study were released as health and immunization stakeholders prepare to hold the first Ministerial Conference in Immunisation in Africa to discuss the progress the continent has made in vaccinating children.
The conference will be held between February 24 and February 25 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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