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Gynecol Oncol. 2014 Mar;132 Suppl 1:S13-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2014.01.046. Epub 2014 Jan 31.

HPV vaccine use among African American girls: qualitative formative research using a participatory social marketing approach.

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Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, USA. Electronic address:
Tennessee State University, USA.
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, USA.
Meharry Medical College, USA.



To generate recommendations for framing messages to promote HPV vaccination, specifically for African American adolescents and their parents who have not yet made a decision about the vaccine (the "Undecided" market segment).


Focus groups and interviews were conducted with African American girls ages 11-18 (N=34) and their mothers (N=31), broken into market segments based on daughter's vaccination status and mother's intent to vaccinate.


Findings suggested that the HPV vaccine should be presented to "Undecided" mothers and adolescents as a routine vaccine (just like other vaccines) that helps prevent cancer. Within the "Undecided" segment, we identified two sub-segments based on barriers to HPV vaccination and degree of reluctance. The "Undecided/Ready If Offered" segment would easily accept HPV vaccine if given the opportunity, with basic information and a healthcare provider recommendation. The "Undecided/Skeptical" segment would need more in-depth information to allay concerns about vaccine safety, mistrust of drug companies, and recommended age. Some mothers and girls had the erroneous perception that girls do not need the vaccine until they become sexually active. African American adolescents and their mothers overwhelmingly thought campaigns should target both girls and boys for HPV vaccination. In addition, campaigns and messages may need to be tailored for pre-teens (ages 9-12) versus teens (ages 13-18) and their parents.


Findings pointed to the need to "normalize" the perception of HPV vaccine as just another routine vaccine (e.g., part of pre-teen vaccine package). Findings can inform social marketing campaigns targeting Undecided or ethnically diverse families.


African Americans; Formative research; HPV vaccine; Social marketing

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