Purpose: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine uptake remains low. Although publicly funded programs provide free or low cost vaccines to low-income children, barriers aside from cost may prevent disadvantaged girls from getting vaccinated. Prior studies have shown distance to health care as a potential barrier to utilizing pediatric preventive services. This study examines whether HPV vaccines are geographically accessible for low-income girls in Los Angeles County and whether proximity to safety-net clinics is associated with vaccine initiation.
Methods: Interviews were conducted in multiple languages with largely immigrant, low-income mothers of girls ages 9 to 18 via a county health hotline to assess uptake and correlates of uptake. Addresses of respondents and safety-net clinics that provide the HPV vaccine for free or low cost were geo-coded and linked to create measures of geographic proximity. Logistic regression models were estimated for each proximity measure on HPV vaccine initiation while controlling for other factors.
Results: On average, 83% of the 468 girls had at least one clinic within 3-miles of their residence. The average travel time on public transportation to the nearest clinic among all girls was 21min. Average proximity to clinics differed significantly by race/ethnicity. Latinas had both the shortest travel distances (2.2 miles) and public transportation times (16min) compared to other racial/ethnic groups. The overall HPV vaccine initiation rate was 25%. Increased proximity to the nearest clinic was not significantly associated with initiation. By contrast, daughter's age and insurance status were significantly associated with increased uptake.
Conclusions: This study is among the first to examine geographic access to HPV vaccines for underserved girls. Although the majority of girls live in close proximity to safety-net vaccination services, rates of initiation were low. Expanding clinic outreach in this urban area is likely more important than increasing geographic access to the vaccine for this population.
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