Reminders, Refugees, and Ramadan: Characterizing Missed Immunization Appointments among Palestinian Refugees in Jordan
There are currently over two million Palestinian refugees residing in Jordan, 370,000 of whom reside in refugee camps. Due to conflict-affiliated disease outbreaks among children in the region, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has identified incomplete vaccination as a critical public health issue and has invested in the development and implementation of a text message reminder service for preventing loss-to-follow-up. Childhood immunization rates in UNRWA catchment regions are generally high, yet little is known about risk factors for missed appointments, which impose a substantial administrative burden due to the need to contact patients for rescheduling. Stronger user characterization is necessary for improved targeting and minimized cost as we develop a more robust SMS system capable of scaling across all health facilities.
This mixed-methods study prospectively recorded 6 months of immunization history among a cohort of children born in June 2014 at Taybeh Health Center in Amman. Demographic information was collected at the time of birth, and caregivers of cohort members were invited to participate in interviews that assessed immunization knowledge, preferences, decision-making, and experience with the SMS reminder system. Patients were more likely to significantly delay appointments during the Ramadan holiday and for doses further from the child date of birth. Future policies that might bridge these gaps include targeting pre-appointment SMS reminders to high-risk patients, implementing holiday shifts in clinic hours, and regularly updating patient contact information.
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