Implementing new consent procedures for the schools-based HPV vaccination programme: a qualitative study

Suzanne Audrey*, Karen Evans, Michelle C Farr, Joanne Ferrie, Julie Yates, Marion R Roderick, Harri Fisher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Background. The English schools-based human papillomavirus (HPV) programme was offered to young women aged 12-13 years. High coverage was achieved, but variations in uptake across local authorities were apparent. The requirement for written parental consent acted as a barrier to some young women with the potential to exacerbate health inequities.

Objectives. To consider the practicalities and implications of implementing new consent procedures for the schools-based HPV vaccination programme.

Design. Qualitative study.

Settings. Two local authority areas in the south-west of England with relatively lower uptake of the HPV vaccination programme.

Participants. The 53 participants included: the immunisation programme manager, three immunisation nurses, three members of staff in mainstream schools, five members of staff in alternative education provider settings, 19 young women, and 22 parents.

Methods. Digitally recorded, semi-structured interviews were undertaken. All transcripts were fully transcribed and anonymised. Thematic analysis was undertaken, assisted by the Framework approach to data management.

Results. The new consent processes for the HPV vaccination generally worked well. Telephoning parents on the day of the vaccination session was viewed as an acceptable and effective way to reach parents. Adolescent self-consent was rarely undertaken. This can be explained partially by the relative success in gaining parental verbal consent but concerns about disrupting relationships - between healthcare professionals, parents and school staff, or within families – made professionals reluctant to administer the vaccine without some form of parental consent. For young women with special educational needs and disabilities the consent process relied upon close communication between school staff and parents. Other young women whose access to the vaccine, or consent options, were unclear or problematic included: those who were registered with a school but attended an alternative setting for part of their timetable; those educated at home; those in the care of the local authority or living with a foster family, and; young people with gender dysphoria.

Conclusions. Expanding the consent procedures for the schools-based HPV vaccination programme to include parental telephone consent was broadly welcomed by the immunisation nurses, parents, and young women in our study. The requirement for young women to confirm that they had discussed vaccination with their parents, and that vaccination would not cause difficulties at home, meant adolescent self-consent was rare in this age-group. Greater understanding of the barriers to uptake outside of the mainstream school-based sessions is needed to further address inequalities in uptake.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Child Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2021


  • adolescent
  • consent
  • health inequalities
  • HPV
  • qualitative research
  • vaccines


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