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Keywords:

  • Human papillomavirus;
  • vaccine;
  • health knowledge;
  • attitudes;
  • immunisation;
  • cancer;
  • cervix;
  • genital warts

Abstract

Objective: A vaccine to prevent human papilloma virus (HPV) infection has been licensed recently in the United States of America and Australia. The aim of this study was to assess community attitudes to the introduction of HPV vaccine in the State of South Australia.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted by computer-aided telephone interviews in February 2006. The survey assessed adult and parental attitudes to the introduction of HPV vaccine to provide protection against a sexually transmitted disease caused by HPV and against cervical cancer. Two thousand interviews were conducted in metropolitan and rural households.

Results: Two per cent of respondents knew that persistent HPV infection caused cervical cancer and a further 7% were aware that the cause was viral. The majority of adults interviewed (83%) considered that both men and women should receive HPV vaccine and 77% of parents agreed that they would have their child/children immunised. Parents were mainly concerned about possible side effects of the vaccine (66%), with only 0.2% being concerned about discussing a sexually transmitted disease with their children and 5% being concerned that use of the vaccine may lead to promiscuity.

Implications: Our findings suggest that public health education campaigns for HPV vaccination will find a majority of parents receptive to their children being vaccinated, but attention must be paid to appropriate explanation about HPV infection as the cause of cervical cancer and education about the safety of the HPV vaccine.