Prevalence and characteristics of HPV vaccine hesitancy among parents of adolescents across the US

Vaccine. 2020 Aug 27;38(38):6027-6037. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2020.06.074. Epub 2020 Aug 2.


Background: While many clinicians encounter parents or adolescents who refuse HPV vaccine, little is known about the prevalence of hesitancy for HPV vaccine nationally or its association with vaccination.

Methods: In April 2019, we surveyed families with adolescents 11-17 years using a national online panel (Knowledge Panel®) as the sampling frame. We assessed the prevalence of HPV vaccine hesitancy with the validated 9-item Vaccine Hesitancy Scale (VHS). We used multivariate analyses to assess demographic factors associated with HPV vaccine hesitancy. We also assessed practical barriers to receipt of HPV vaccine and the relationship between barriers and hesitancy. Finally, we evaluated the association between both HPV vaccine hesitancy and practical barriers on HPV vaccine receipt or refusal.

Results: 2,177 parents out of 4,185 sampled (52%) completed the survey, 2,020 qualified (lived with adolescent). Using a VHS cut-off score > 3 out of 5 points, 23% of US parents were hesitant about HPV vaccine. Hesitancy was lower among those with Hispanic ethnicity. At least one out of five parents disagreed that the HPV vaccine is beneficial for their adolescent, that the vaccine is effective, protects against HPV-related cancers, or that they followed their adolescent's health-care provider's recommendation about the vaccine. Many were concerned about vaccine side effects and the novelty of the vaccine. Adolescents living with vaccine-hesitant parents were less than one-third as likely to have received the vaccine (RR = 0.29, 95% CI 0.24, 0.35) or completed the vaccine series (RR = 0.29, 95% CI 0.23, 0.36), and were 6-fold more likely to have refused the vaccine because of parental vaccine-related concerns (RR = 6.09, 95% CI = 5.26, 7.04). Most practical barriers were independently associated with vaccine receipt but not with vaccine refusal.

Conclusions: HPV vaccine hesitancy is common nationally and strongly related to both under-vaccination and vaccine refusal.

Keywords: HPV vaccine; Vaccine hesitancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines*
  • Parents
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Prevalence
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccination Refusal


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines