Barriers to HPV immunization for African American adolescent females

Vaccine. 2012 Oct 5;30(45):6472-6. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.07.085. Epub 2012 Aug 18.


Purpose: The objective of this study was to identify motivations and barriers to HPV vaccination and culturally relevant and meaningful opportunities for vaccine promotion among African American mothers and adolescent daughters. Qualitative methods were employed to identify barriers to HPV immunization and understand mothers motivations to vaccinate their daughters. We conducted in-depth interviews with 19 mother-daughter pairs focused on 5 key areas: health history, prior vaccine experience, knowledge of HPV and HPV vaccine, relationship with physician, and experience of cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer (CD/CC).

Results: Four key factors drive HPV immunization among African-American mothers of adolescent daughters. First, mothers' CD/CC disease experiences motivated a strong commitment to protect daughters from the trauma of CD/CC. Second, limited understanding of HPV and its connection to CD/CC made it difficult for mothers to assess the risk of infection or explain the medical benefits of the vaccine to their daughters. Third, mothers anticipate the sexual debut of adolescent daughters and advocate for healthcare interventions to protect them. Mothers were not deterred by multiple visits to complete the vaccine series; they likened HPV immunization to injectable contraceptives that require a series of injections and offer protection from the unintended consequences of sexual activity. Finally, mothers trusted physicians to initiate discussion of HPV immunization. Physicians who failed to initiate discussion and offer unconditional endorsement generated doubt about the vaccine among mothers and missed opportunities for immunization.

Conclusions: Our initial results indicate that physicians can engage in culturally relevant vaccine promotion in urban, underserved African American communities by initiating discussions of HPV immunization that (1) acknowledge mothers' own CD/CC experiences, (2) support parenting strategies that aim to protect daughters from the unintended consequences of sexual activity, and (3) make explicit the connection between CD/CC and HPV infection, and between prevention of HPV infection and HPV immunization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers
  • Motivation
  • Papillomavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Parenting
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Vaccination / psychology*


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines