What messages move young women to decide to vaccinate themselves against HPV? How can we best help young women make informed decisions about HPV vaccine use? It was these questions that prompted our study into the HPV Vaccine Decision Narratives which have recently been added to the RTIPs database. I hope you will download, review and hopefully use these materials in your own practice.
Our decision narratives revealed that college-aged women relied on family messages to make HPV vaccine decisions despite their age and being away from home. The importance of health care providers actively supporting informed HPV vaccine patient–provider discussions cannot be overstated. Not clearly explaining what HPV is, its benefits, and explicitly recommending the HPV vaccine significantly undermines prevention efforts.
The results of this study provide insight into the need to educate women about the range of choices surrounding HPV. The onus is on clinicians as well as pharmaceutical companies not only to communicate more about the choices involved for women, but to clearly explain the safety and benefits of HPV vaccination to women while exercising extra caution in the way messages are delivered to avoid the potential for blaming women should they choose not to vaccinate.
Our studies demonstrated that HPV vaccination campaign messages targeting college-aged women should include:
- the fact that college-aged women can benefit from HPV vaccination;
- steps women can take to protect their sexual health;
- information about HPV not being only a woman’s issue, but affecting both sexes;
- clear indicators that not only promiscuous women are at risk for HPV acquisition; and
- communication strategies to discuss the vaccine with their parents.
Efforts to reach men with an HPV vaccine message are in progress, and this is a step in the right direction to avoid blaming women or leading women to falsely believe that HPV is solely a woman’s issue.
I welcome your comments and questions about this intervention and hope to learn more about your efforts to help young people make informed decisions about HPV vaccine use.