Open Access Research article

“Knowledge and attitudes of Spanish adolescent girls towards human papillomavirus infection: where to intervene to improve vaccination coverage”

Pedro Navarro-Illana1*, Javier Diez-Domingo2, Esther Navarro-Illana1, José Tuells4, Sara Alemán3 and Joan Puig-Barberá3

Author Affiliations

1 Facultad de Enfermería, Universidad Católica de Valencia “San Vicente Mártir”, C/Jesús, 10, 46007 Valencia, Spain

2 Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Católica de Valencia “San Vicente Mártir”, C/Quevedo, 2, 46001 Valencia, Spain

3 3FISABIO (Fundación para el Fomento de la Investigación Sanitaria y Biomédica), Av/Cataluña, 21, 46020 Valencia, Spain

4 Cátedra Vacunología ‘Balmis’, UA–FISABIO, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:490  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-490

Published: 22 May 2014



HPV vaccine coverage is far from ideal in Valencia, Spain, and this could be partially related to the low knowledge about the disease and the vaccine, therefore we assessed these, as well as the attitude towards vaccination in adolescent girls, and tried to identify independently associated factors that could potentially be modified by an intervention in order to increase vaccine coverage.


A cross sectional study was conducted in a random selection of schools of the Spanish region of Valencia. We asked mothers of 1278 girls, who should have been vaccinated in the 2011 campaign, for informed consent. Those that accepted their daughters’ participation, a questionnaire regarding the Knowledge of HPV infection and vaccine was passed to the girls in the school.


833 mothers (65.1%) accepted participation. All their daughters’ responded the questionnaire. Of those, 89.9% had heard about HPV and they associated it to cervical cancer. Only 14% related it to other problems like genital warts. The knowledge score of the girls who had heard about HPV was 6.1/10. Knowledge was unrelated to the number of contacts with the health system (Pediatrician or nurse), and positively correlated with the discussions with classmates about the vaccine. Adolescents Spanish in origin or with an older sister vaccinated, had higher punctuation. 67% of the girls thought that the vaccine prevented cancer, and 22.6% felt that although prevented cancer the vaccine had important safety problems. 6.4% of the girls rejected the vaccine for safety problems or for not considering themselves at risk of infection. 71.5% of the girls had received at least one vaccine dose. Vaccinated girls scored higher knowledge (p = 0.05).


Knowledge about HPV infection and vaccine was fair in adolescents of Valencia, and is independent to the number of contacts with the health system, it is however correlated to the conversations about the vaccine with their peers and the vaccination status. An action to improve HPV knowledge through health providers might increase vaccine coverage in the adolescents.

Vaccines; Papillomavirus infections; Papillomavirus vaccines; Adolescent behavior; Health knowledge; Attitudes; Practice