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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Feb;18(2):363-72. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0418. Epub 2009 Feb 3.

Disparities in how parents are learning about the human papillomavirus vaccine.

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  • 1Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, USA.



Differential access to basic health information may contribute to persistent cervical cancer disparities. We examined whether human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine awareness, HPV knowledge, and use of information sources about the vaccine differ by sociodemographic characteristics associated with cervical cancer.


Study participants (n = 889) were caregivers of adolescent girls ages 10 to 18 years living in southeastern North Carolina. Analyses simultaneously controlled for caregivers' gender, race, age, education, income, and rural residence.


Although most caregivers were aware of HPV (83%) and the HPV vaccine (82%), awareness differed by gender, race, education, and income. The largest differences were for race, with 87% of Whites versus 68% of African Americans having heard of the vaccine (P < 0.001). Caregivers correctly answered an average of 69% of questions on HPV, with differences by race and education. Most respondents heard of the HPV vaccine through drug company advertisements (83%) or broadcast media coverage (69%). African Americans were less likely than Whites to have heard about the vaccine from advertisements but more likely from a broadcast source (P < 0.05). Health care providers (88%) and the internet (65%) were the most favored sources for future information about the vaccine. Vaccine uptake was associated with awareness, knowledge, and media use.


Whereas drug company advertisements seem to play a central role in high HPV vaccine awareness, doctors and the internet are the preferred future "go to" sources for seeking out information. Communication-based interventions for caregivers from cervical cancer risk groups, especially African Americans, may need to use different communication channels and content.

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