Background: HPV immunisation of adolescent girls is expected to have a significant impact in the reduction of cervical cancer. UK The HPV immunisation programme is primarily delivered by school nurses. We examine the role of school nurses in delivering the HPV immunisation programme and their impact on minimising health inequalities in vaccine uptake.
Methods and findings: A rapid evidence assessment (REA) and semi-structured interviews with health professionals were conducted and analysed using thematic analysis. 80 health professionals from across the UK are interviewed, primarily school nurses and HPV immunisation programme coordinators. The REA identified 2,795 articles and after analysis and hand searches, 34 relevant articles were identified and analysed. Interviews revealed that health inequalities in HPV vaccination uptake were mainly related to income and other social factors in contrast to published research which emphasises potential inequalities related to ethnicity and/or religion. Most school nurses interviewed understood local health inequalities and made particular efforts to target girls who did not attend or missed doses. Interviews also revealed maintaining accurate and consistent records influenced both school nurses' understanding and efforts to target inequalities in HPV vaccination uptake.
Conclusions: Despite high uptake in the UK, some girls remain at risk of not being vaccinated with all three doses. School nurses played a key role in reducing health inequalities in the delivery of the HPV programme. Other studies identified religious beliefs and ethnicity as potentially influencing HPV vaccination uptake but interviews for this research found this appeared not to have occurred. Instead school nurses stated girls who were more likely to be missed were those not in education. Improving understanding of the delivery processes of immunisation programmes and this impact on health inequalities can help to inform solutions to increase uptake and address health inequalities in childhood and adolescent vaccination programmes.