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Use of Cellular Phone Contacts to Increase Return Rates for Immunization Services in Kenya

Photo uploaded by Alexandra BurkeIn Kenya, failure to complete immunization schedules by children who previously accessed immunization services is an obstacle to ensuring that children are fully immunized. Home visit approaches used to track defaulting children have not been successful in reducing the drop-out rate. This study tested the use of phone contacts as an approach for tracking immunization defaulters in 12 facilities in three districts of western Kenya. For nine months, children accessing immunization services in the facilities were tracked and caregivers were asked their reasons for defaulting.

In all of the facilities, caregiver phone ownership was above 80%. Caregivers provided reliable contact information and health workers positively perceived phone-based defaulter communications. Competing tasks and concerns about vaccinating sick children and side-effects were the most cited reasons for caregivers defaulting.

It was concluded that use of phone contacts for follow-up is a feasible and cost-effective method for tracking defaulters. This approach should complement traditional home visits, especially for caregivers without phones. Given communication-related reasons for defaulting, it is important that immunization programs scale-up community education activities. But a system for health facilities to share details of defaulting children should be established to reduce "false defaulters."

Research methods and results are presented in the full article available at Pan African Medical Journal
Authors: Evans Mokaya, Isaac Mugoya, Jane Raburu, Lora Shimp