Motivators and Barriers to HPV Vaccination: A Qualitative Study of Underserved Women Attending Planned Parenthood
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Disease-associated strains of HPV can cause genital warts and six cancer types. HPV-associated cervical cancer disproportionately impacts medically underserved women including Black and Latina women with respect to incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates. Although safe and effective vaccines are available, HPV vaccination rates remain low among low-income individuals and women of color. The current study examined individual and structural motivators and barriers to HPV vaccination among medically underserved women utilizing a Planned Parenthood health center in Southeast Pennsylvania. Guided by narrative engagement theory (NET), qualitative interviews (N = 24) were used to elicit HPV vaccine decision stories from both vaccinated and unvaccinated women. Using a phronetic iterative data analysis approach, we identified three motivators to vaccinate against HPV: (1) receiving an explicit vaccine recommendation from a healthcare provider (a structural determinant), (2) feeling empowered to take control of one’s health (an individual determinant), and (3) knowing someone infected with HPV (an individual determinant). Among unvaccinated participants, barriers to HPV vaccination included: (1) not receiving an explicit vaccine recommendation from a healthcare provider (a structural determinant), (2) low perceived risk for acquiring HPV or that HPV is not severe (an individual determinant), and (3) lack of maternal support to vaccinate (a structural determinant). Healthcare providers are optimally positioned to fill the gap in prior missed vaccine opportunities and empower women by recommending HPV vaccination.