Childhood immunization appointment reminders and recalls: Strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to increase vaccine coverage

Childhood immunization coverage has been shown to be greatly impacted by parental forgetfulness regarding immunizations and appointments. Evidence supports the use of reminders and recalls to overcome this barrier, which remind parents about upcoming immunization appointments and inform them once their child is overdue for an immunization. In this study, we sought to identify reminder/recall strategies used throughout a large Canadian province and determine the perceived strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement of existing strategies.

An environmental scan was performed in 2018 in two phases: (1) interviews with public health leaders from the five zones of Alberta and (2) an online survey of public health centres across the province. Data analysis occurred in 2018 and 2019.

Commonly reported strengths of reminders and recalls included their ability to increase appointment attendance and remind parents about immunizations, respectively. A major identified weakness was their time-consuming/resource-intensive nature. Many participants believed reminder/recalls could be improved by modernizing delivery methods. Educational information or strategies to overcome language barriers were rarely incorporated into reminder/recall systems.

There was support for incorporating text messaging and automation into reminder/recall systems while encouraging continued exploration of novel reminder/recall delivery methods. Tailoring reminder/recalls to the needs and preferences of target populations can maximize the effectiveness of these systems. This includes modernizing methods of delivery, addressing language barriers, providing educational information, and allotting some degree of flexibility to local level management of reminder/recalls.

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Jong KM, Sikora CA, MacDonald SE

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