Understanding How Adolescents Think About the HPV Vaccine

Robyn A. Pennella, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Katherine A. Ayers, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Heather M. Brandt, University of South Carolina


Despite educational efforts, Tennessee human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates are 43%, among the lowest in the United States. This study examined how adolescents think about the HPV vaccine to identify patterns and misconceptions to enhance educational efforts. Adolescents (ages 11-12) ( = 168) responded to open-ended questions regarding their thinking about the HPV vaccine. Data were analyzed and interpreted using qualitative thematic analysis. Three domains of themes emerged from responses: (1) characteristics of HPV vaccination, (2) knowledge-related themes, and (3) beliefs-related themes. Prevention of HPV and cancer was the most referenced characteristic of HPV vaccination followed by HPV vaccine rates and HPV vaccine efficacy. Student inquiries were mostly centered on HPV vaccine composition, administration, duration and how the vaccine interacts with the body. Some responses indicated a desire for more information about HPV not specific to the HPV vaccine. Overall, adolescent attitudes were positive towards the HPV vaccine. This study highlights specific questions adolescents have about the vaccine that can be used to tailor future HPV educational efforts, empowering adolescents with the knowledge to be more active students in the decision-making process. In addition, the potential for adolescents to serve as community advocates for the vaccine should be considered for future interventions.