Introduction of School-Based HPV Vaccination in Sweden : Knowledge and Attitudes among Youth, Parents, and Staff

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis is to provide a better understanding of knowledge, attitudes, consent, and decision-making regarding Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, seen from the perspectives of concerned parties – high school students, school nurses, and parents.Two quantitative studies were performed: one descriptive cross-sectional study and one quasi-experimental intervention study. Qualitative studies using focus group interviews and individual interviews were also performed.High school students’ knowledge about HPV and HPV prevention was low but their attitudes toward HPV vaccination were positive. An educational intervention significantly increased the students’ knowledge regarding HPV and HPV prevention. Their already positive attitudes toward condom use and HPV vaccination remained unchanged. The students wanted to receive more information about HPV from school nurses. The school nurses were also positive to HPV vaccination but identified many challenges concerning e.g. priorities, obtaining informed consent, culture, and gender. They saw an ethical dilemma in conflicting values such as the child’s right to self-determination, the parents’ right to make autonomous choices on behalf of their children, and the nurse’s obligation to promote health. They were also unsure of how, what, and to whom information about HPV should be given. Parents, who had consented to vaccination of their young daughters, reasoned as follows: A vaccine recommended by the authorities is likely to be safe and effective, and the parents were willing to do what they could to decrease the risk of a serious disease for their daughter. Fear of unknown adverse events was overweighed by the benefits of vaccination. Parents also saw the school nurse as an important source of HPV information.Conclusions: Positive attitudes toward HPV vaccination despite limited knowledge about HPV, are overarching themes in this thesis. School nurses have a crucial role to inform about HPV prevention. It is important that the concerned parties are adequately informed about HPV and its preventive methods, so that they can make an informed decision about vaccination. A short school-based intervention can increase knowledge about HPV among students. From a public health perspective, high vaccination coverage is important as it can lead to a reduced number of HPV-related disease cases.