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Barriers and facilitators to HPV vaccination of young women in high-income countries: a qualitative systematic review and evidence synthesis

Harriet Batista Ferrer1*, Caroline Trotter2, Matthew Hickman1 and Suzanne Audrey1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PS, UK

2 Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0ES, UK

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:700  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-700

Published: 9 July 2014



Vaccination against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is recommended for adolescent young women prior to sexual debut to reduce cervical cancer related mortality and morbidity. Understanding factors affecting decision-making of HPV vaccination of young women is important so that effective interventions can be developed which address barriers to uptake in population groups less likely to receive the HPV vaccine.


We undertook a qualitative systematic review and evidence synthesis to examine decision-making relating to the HPV vaccination of young women in high-income countries. A comprehensive search of databases from inception to March 2012 was undertaken to identify eligible studies reporting the perspectives of key stakeholders including policy makers, professionals involved in programme, parents, and young women. Factors affecting uptake of the vaccine were examined at different levels of the socio-ecological model (policy, community, organisational, interpersonal and intrapersonal).


Forty-one studies were included. Whether young women receive the HPV vaccine is strongly governed by the decisions of policy makers, healthcare professionals, and parents. These decisions are shaped by: financial considerations; social norms and values relating to sexual activity, and; trust in vaccination programmes and healthcare providers. Financial constraints may be overcome through universal healthcare systems offering the HPV vaccine free at the point of delivery. In the healthcare setting, judgements by healthcare professionals about whether to recommend the vaccine may restrict a young woman’s access to the vaccine irrespective of her own beliefs and preferences. Parents may decide not to allow their daughters to be vaccinated, based on cultural or religious perceptions about sexual activity.


Barriers to the uptake of the HPV vaccine have implications for young women’s future sexual, physical and reproductive health. Interventions to address barriers to uptake of the vaccine should target appropriate, and multiple, levels of the socio-ecological model. Issues of trust require clear, accessible, and sometimes culturally appropriate, information about the HPV vaccination programme. Although young women are central to the HPV vaccination programme, their views are underrepresented in the qualitative literature. Future research should consider young women’s perceptions of, and involvement in, consent and decision-making.

Adolescents; Decision-making; HPV vaccine; Health inequalities; Ethnicity