A semi-qualitative study of attitudes to vaccinating adolescents against human papillomavirus without parental consent

Brabin, Loretta; Roberts, Stephen A.; Kitchener, Henry C.
January 2007
BMC Public Health;2007, Vol. 7 Issue 1, p20
Academic Journal
Background: The first vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer has been licensed, and in future, vaccination may be routinely offered to 10-14 year old girls. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus and some parents may refuse consent for vaccination. Under-16s in the UK have a right to confidential sexual health care without parental consent. We investigated parents' views on making available HPV vaccination to adolescent minors at sexual health clinics without parental consent. Methods: This was a semi-qualitative analysis of views of parents of 11-12 year old school children collected as part of a population-based survey of parental attitudes to HPV vaccination in Manchester. Parents were firstly asked if they agreed that a well-informed child should be able to request vaccination at a sexual health clinic without parental consent, and secondly, to provide a reason for this answer. Ethical perspectives on adolescent autonomy provided the framework for descriptive analysis. Results: 307 parents answered the question, and of these, 244 (80%) explained their views. Parents with views consistent with support for adolescent autonomy (n = 99) wanted to encourage responsible behaviour, protect children from ill-informed or bigoted parents, and respected confidentiality and individual rights. In contrast, 97 parents insisted on being involved in decision-making. They emphasised adult responsibility for a child's health and guidance, erosion of parental rights, and respect for cultural and moral values. Other parents (n = 48) wanted clearer legal definitions governing parental rights and responsibilities or hoped for joint decision-making. Parents resistant to adolescent autonomy would be less likely to consent to future HPV vaccination, (67%) than parents supporting this principle (89%; p < 0.001). Conclusion: In the UK, the principle of adolescent autonomy is recognised and logically should include the right to HPV vaccination, but this may concern parents who would otherwise approve vaccination.


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