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Int J Behav Med. 2014 Feb;21(1):11-9. doi: 10.1007/s12529-013-9357-3.

Young women's constructions of the HPV vaccine: a cross-cultural, qualitative study in Scotland, Spain, Serbia and Bulgaria.

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Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK,



Following international trends, the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine was introduced in Europe for protection against infection from common strands of the HPV virus which can lead to cervical cancer. Young women aged 18-26 years are at greatest risk of infection by the HPV virus yet have been neglected in research, policy, and practice.


To explore young women's constructions of the HPV vaccine in four European countries with different implementation policies ranging from national school-based programmes, regarded as the gold standard, to regional on-demand and private provision.


Qualitative methods comprising 11 focus group discussions with 54 young women aged 18-26, in Scotland (n = 10), Spain (n = 25), Serbia (n = 9) and Bulgaria (n = 10). A discursive analysis was conducted, following an initial thematic analysis.


Two competing discursive constructions were considered: the 'responsible young woman' discourse was constructed as someone with individual rights to health, choice and discretion along with responsibilities to protect health and make rational decisions. In 'the HPV vaccine: a discourse of exclusion', access to the vaccine, wider health promotion and knowledge was controlled by others which had the potential to undermine the young woman's health. We consider how young women managed this tension through recourse to being health vigilant.


Qualitative, cross-cultural research highlighted common concerns amongst young European women towards being responsible citizens in the face of their health and highlighted socio-cultural constraints to knowledge and resources. We highlight cross-cultural implications particularly between Western and Eastern European contexts.

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