The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Influential Factors Shaping Parental Decision-Making About HPV Vaccination for Boys and Girls

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 6:00 PM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon E, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Katharine A. S. Rendle, MSW, MA, Doctoral Candidate, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Purpose: Vaccines represent one of the most successful public health interventions in modern medicine. Despite successes, cultural anxieties over vaccine safety and necessity continue in the United States—most recently in the context of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Politically charged discussions of the influence of pharmaceutical companies on HPV vaccination policies, and fears that HPV vaccination may lead to riskier sexual behavior have exacerbated existing cultural anxieties. Additionally, there has been some medical uncertainty over the vaccine, including debates over the cost and benefit of widespread vaccination, and limited evidence of the long-term effectiveness of cervical cancer prevention. While these uncertainties continue today, little is known about the impact these factors have on parental decisions to vaccinate their children against HPV.

Methods: This project utilized a mixed-methods ethnographic approach including in-depth interviews, surveys, and participant observation. Parents living in the San Francisco Bay Area were recruited using parenting networks and flyers at community locations. Participants completed a written survey and semi-structured interview designed to examine: 1) risk perceptions; 2) decision-making factors; 3) information seeking behaviors; 4) vaccine knowledge; and, 5) parenting values. Survey data was analyzed statistically. Qualitative data was analyzed using the constant comparative method.

Results: A total of 50 mothers and fathers were interviewed from a range of socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. Of these 50, 23 parents (46%) had already vaccinated at least one of their children at the time of the interview. Of the remaining parents, the majority reported that they would most likely vaccinate their children in the future—however, often at an age much later than the recommended age of 12-13. While the majority of parents did not report that publicized debates significantly impacted their vaccination decisions, many reported that the lack of long-term evidence concerning the potential risks and benefits of HPV vaccination played a role in their decision-making. Several other factors emerged as influential in parents’ decision whether or not to vaccinate including: 1) perception of the safety of the vaccine; 2) perception of child’s sexuality; 3) recommendation of provider; and, 4) general attitudes toward immunizations.

Implications: For many parents, the decision to vaccinate their child against HPV may not be a matter of if, but when. Further research is needed to understand how parental decisions to delay HPV vaccination, and healthcare providers’ perceptions of vaccination timing may contribute to suboptimal vaccination rates. As more long-term effectiveness data becomes available, recommended adolescent immunization schedules should be reviewed and altered to match medical evidence. Additionally, health promotion campaigns and informational materials may need to be tailored to ensure that all parents understand the risks—and potential benefits—of delaying vaccination.