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Attitudes towards human papillomavirus vaccination: a qualitative study of vaccinated and unvaccinated girls aged 17–18 years
  1. Kate Williams,
  2. Alice Forster,
  3. Laura Marlow,
  4. Jo Waller
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jo Waller, CRUK Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK; j.waller{at}


Background and methodology This study explored knowledge about human papillomavirus (HPV) and attitudes towards HPV vaccination among girls who were part of the ‘catch-up’ vaccination programme. Interviews were carried out between March and May 2009 with girls (aged 17–18 years) who had received HPV vaccine (n=5) and girls who had opted not to receive HPV vaccine (n=5). Interviews lasted approximately 25 minutes, were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data were analysed qualitatively using framework analysis.

Results Most girls were aware that HPV is sexually transmitted, but beyond this had limited understanding of HPV and HPV vaccination, and expressed a desire for further information. Girls were uncertain about the need for the vaccine both in terms of perceived risk (e.g. because they were not sexually active) and because of its novelty. Some had concerns about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, while others were mistrusting of the information provided. Being embarrassed about discussing the vaccine with parents and practical barriers to vaccination were also discussed.

Discussion and conclusions Understanding of HPV was poor, despite participants having been offered the vaccine. School-based interventions might be a useful supplement to leaflets, and should focus on improving knowledge of HPV and awareness of the purpose of HPV vaccination.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Funding The authors are grateful for funding from Cancer Research UK for participant payments. JW and LM have received travel funding or honoraria from Sanofi Pasteur MSD and GlaxoSmithKline, both of which manufacture HPV vaccines. JW and LM are funded by Cancer Research UK. AF receives a Dean's PhD studentship from University College London Medical School and KW received a Medical Research Council studentship for her Master's degree.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethical approval The study was approved by the University College London Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.