BACKGROUND: The Human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) is an essential tool for the prevention of HPV-related cancers. In Puerto Rico, the Secretary of Health established a school entry requirement of at least one dose of HPV vaccination in girls and boys aged 11 and 12 years, taking effect in August 2018. Our study aimed to examine parents' and guardians' views of unvaccinated children about the process of implementation of the new HPV vaccination school entry policy in Puerto Rico and identify potential barriers and facilitators related to the implementation of this requirement.

METHODS: During April through November 2019, we conducted three focus groups (n = 12) and eight in-depth semi-structured interviews with parents of children aged 11 and 12 who had not yet initiated the HPV vaccine series. The interview topics addressed were: perception of vaccination, HPV vaccine and it is inclusion as new school entry requirement practice, procedure of the sources of information, influencers, and willingness to change. The interviews were recorded and transcribed by our staff members. We identified emergent themes through thematic analysis.

RESULTS: The participants' perspective on the HPV vaccine school requirement was mixed. Lack of information of the HPV vaccines and lack of communication about the school-entry requirement were the themes most mentioned in the interviews. Moreover, previous negative experiences from friends or family members and adverse effects deterred some participants from vaccinating their kids. We discussed barriers in the process of soliciting an exemption.

CONCLUSION: Most barriers mentioned by study participants are modifiable. Information about the HPV vaccine mandate's implementation and educational materials regarding HPV vaccine safety need to be provided to address parents' concerns related to the vaccine's side effects. Schools (teachers, principal directors, and administrative staff), the government, and parent organizations need to be part of these efforts. This multilevel approach will help to improve disseminating information about HPV vaccination to clarify doubts and misinformation among parents.

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Published in BMC Public Health, v. 21, issue 1, article no. 1938.

© The Author(s) 2021

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

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Funding Information

This work was supported by National Cancer Institute (NCI), grant R01CA232743-01A1 (“Implementation of School-Entry Policies for Human Papillomavirus Vaccination”) within University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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The data sets generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available due to our confidentiality commitment to our participants to keep such data in our offices, but they are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request and after being discussed with the IRB.

12889_2021_11952_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (276 kB)
Additional file 1. GUÍA DEL MODERADOR: ENTREVISTA A PADRES O ENCARGADOS. Description of data: This document is the guideline questions used for the focus group and in-depth interview in our study.