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Educating young people about the HPV vaccine 

4 February 2020 

Researchers from the University of Bristol and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have received funding from the Medical Research Council to develop an educational package to increase the uptake of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine in schools. They will work with young people to co-produce the package, which will be tailored for use in schools where the vaccine uptake is low.

Teenagers walking towards the entrance to a school building

The HPV is common and some types of HPV can lead to cancers affecting both men and women, including penile and cervical cancer. In September 2019 in the UK, the schools-based vaccination programme, already delivered to girls, was extended to boys aged 12 to 13 years. However, uptake remains low in some areas and some population groups.

Dr Harriet Fisher, from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol, said: “Our aim is to help more young people receive the HPV vaccine, which will protect them from future cancer risk. Our previous research has shown that some young people have unmet information needs about the HPV vaccine. We hope that the educational session will create a safe space for young people to ask questions about the HPV vaccine and what to expect during the vaccination process. This is especially important since the HPV vaccine is now offered to young men as well as young women.”

The study will use an innovative, co-production study design, with creative designers and young people working together to produce the content and materials. A series of workshops will be organised in youth organisations to comment on the materials produced, key messages and the best way to deliver those messages. 

The educational package will be tested in four schools in the South West of England and South London where HPV vaccine uptake is low. The session will be delivered in schools to Year 8 students about two weeks before they have the HPV vaccine. They will find out about the HPV vaccine and what to expect during the vaccination process. Young people and other stakeholders, such as school staff and immunisation nurses, will be asked their views on how well they think the package worked and how it might be improved. 

Dr Fisher said: “In the future, we hope to be able to carry out a larger scale study in more schools to see if the educational package can help address young people’s information needs and help more young people receive the HPV vaccine if they want it.”

If you would like to know more about the study, please contact Harriet Fisher for more information.


Further information

About the NIHR HPRU in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol

The Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Evaluation of Interventions, based in Population Health Sciences at the University of Bristol, is part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and a partnership between University of Bristol and Public Health England (PHE), in collaboration with University College London, Cambridge Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit and University of the West of England. We are a multidisciplinary team undertaking applied research on the development and evaluation of interventions to protect the public’s health. Our aim is to support PHE in delivering its objectives and functions. Our focus is on the PHE priority area of infection. Follow us on Twitter: @HPRU_EI 

About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.