HPV vaccine acceptability study announces results

June 16, 2009

Female caregivers of African American girls are reluctant to have their children vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new study by the Center for Community Health (CCH) at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

The HPV Vaccine Acceptability Study discovered a few major themes from its focus groups:

  • Most participants lacked information about the virus and the vaccine, but wanted a source of unbiased, trustworthy information.
  • Many participants were unwilling to have their children vaccinated for HPV due to negative perceptions of the vaccine.  These perceptions were caused by distrust of the medical/ pharmaceutical community, as well as suspicions over the governor’s mandate for the vaccine.
  • Many participants were concerned about the long-term side effects of the vaccine on their children.
  • Participants’ decisions whether to vaccinate their children were complicated by the association between HPV and sexual activity.  Many participants said they were teaching their child to abstain until marriage.

Furthermore, while the majority of women had learned about HPV and the HPV vaccine through TV commercials, they indicated that this was not a trusted source of information.  Instead, women wanted to receive information from their children’s schools or primary care physicians.  Participants also indicated that they would like the information to be more readily available through other community avenues, like churches and libraries.

Participants were the mother or primary female caregiver of an African American girl between 7 and 18 years old. They had to be 24 years old or older, reside in Tarrant County, and speak English. When asked about their education levels, 32.6 percent had graduated high school or received their GED; 39.5 percent had one to three years of college; and 23.3 percent were college graduates.

Only 21 percent of participants indicated that they did not have a personal doctor or healthcare provider, and 84 percent reported they had visited their doctor in the previous year for a routine checkup. Despite these high levels of education and regular use of a primary healthcare provider, 51 percent answered false when asked if HPV is a sexually transmitted disease.

CCH and its study partners intend to use the information gathered from this study to create an awareness campaign to educate women about HPV and the HPV vaccine, so that they can make informed decisions about whether or not to have their daughters vaccinated. 

The study was conducted in collaboration between Kathryn Cardarelli, PhD, director of the CCH, and Rachael Jackson, MPH, associate director of the CCH; Roberto Cardarelli, DO, MPH, director of the Primary Care Research Institute at the UNT Health Science Center; Anita Kurian, MBBS, DrPH, chief epidemiologist at Tarrant County Public Health; and Amy Raines, MPH, and Latawnya Peachy, MPH, with the City of Fort Worth Women’s Health Initiative. The study was funded by ForHER, one of the UNT Health Science Center’s Health Institutes of Texas. More information about this and other CCH projects can be found at http://www.centerforcommunityhealth.org/.

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