Rebecca Dell, MPH 2011
The quadrivalent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil™ was added to the New Zealand immunisation schedule in September 2008, with the aim of reducing the incidence of HPV infection and the subsequent development of cervical cancer and reducing inequalities in cervical cancer. Parents serve as the primary gatekeepers for delivery of vaccination to their children, and the success of the programme will depend upon acceptance by parents. Little is known about local parents’ perceptions of this new vaccine. This qualitative study explores parents’ attitudes to the HPV vaccination for their twelve year old daughters. In-depth interviews were conducted with nine parents in seven interviews in Christchurch, New Zealand. The participants were recruited though general practices and snowballing sampling. Transcripts of the interviews were thematically analysed using a post-positivist approach. Two overarching themes were identified – uncertainty about the new vaccine and vaccination as a personal choice. Parents expressed uncertainties about the novelty of the vaccine and its potential efficacy, the potential for unknown side effects, and whether the vaccine was really needed. Parents attempted to alleviate their uncertainty by seeking information and delaying making a decision. In the face of these uncertainties they emphasised the personal nature of the choice they had to make. While the findings of the study cannot be generalised they highlight the importance of providing information that acknowledges these uncertainties as well as the opportunity for parents to engage with health professionals in an ongoing dialogue.