Background: Immunization reminder/recall is typically conducted via mail or telephone call. Use of cell phones, text messaging and email may enable more efficient and interactive reminder/recall communication; however, little is known regarding parental preferences for immunization-related communication.
Objectives: To describe parental experiences and preferences for communication regarding childhood immunization.
Methods: Cross-sectional, web-based survey of a nationally representative sample of 1612 US parents of children 0-17 years; response rate was 71%.
Results: Overall, 31% of parents previously received a notice that their child was due for an immunization; 76% of those received notices via mail. Parent preferences for immunization notices were call to home phone (35%), mail (33%), email (16%), call to cell phone (8%), and text message (3%). More than half of parents had maintained the same home address, phone, email, and cell phone for at least 3 years; this varied by household income, with lower-income parents more likely to have changed their home address, home phone, and cell phone within the last 6 months, and less likely to have an email account. Overall, 56% were willing to register their cell phone number for future immunization messages; those who were unwilling cited the cost of cell phone minutes (35%), privacy concerns (29%), not having text message capabilities (13%), and worry that the information might go to the wrong person (15%).
Conclusions: Although most parents prefer immunization notification by mail and home phone, there is evidence that email and cell phone may be acceptable. Parent contact information was surprisingly stable, although to a lesser degree among low-income parents. Given the willingness of parents to register their cell phone number for future immunization messaging, public health practitioners and researchers should explore the feasibility and effectiveness of conducting reminder/recall using cell phone-based methods.