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Perceptions of HPV vaccine amongst UK university students

Ellen Martin (University of Leeds Medical School, Leeds, UK)
Naomi Senior (University of Leeds Medical School, Leeds, UK)
Ammar Abdullah (University of Leeds Medical School, Leeds, UK)
Janine Brown (University of Leeds Medical School, Leeds, UK)
Suzanne Collings (University of Leeds Medical School, Leeds, UK)
Sophie Racktoo (University of Leeds Medical School, Leeds, UK)
Sarah Walpole (University of Leeds Medical School, Leeds, UK)
Moez Zeiton (University of Leeds Medical School, Leeds, UK)
Catherine Heffernan (Institute of Health Sciences and Public Health Research, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 18 October 2011




The aim of this small‐scale focus group study is to explore the impact the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine has on attitudes towards HPV, cervical cancer and sexual risk taking amongst university students in the UK.


Participants were recruited through advertisements placed on notice boards throughout the campus of the University of Leeds. The study sampled purposively to obtain two groups of ten men and two groups of ten women. A total of 34 people attended the sessions. The missing participants gave no reason for the absence. Those who agreed to take part were aged 19‐24 and were from a range of academic courses. Ethical approval was sought and approved by the Medical School Ethics Committee at the University of Leeds.


Participants saw HPV as being distinct from genital warts. This led to a duality in their view of the vaccine, which they saw as a cancer vaccine for schoolgirls and as an STI vaccine in relation to people of their own age, and thus believed it would cause sexual complacency among young adults. There was a fear that the HPV vaccine would reinforce gender bias, reinforcing the idea that females are responsible for sexual health. They maintained that mass media campaigns were more effective than sex education for improving sexual health knowledge and practices.


With the exception of chlamydia screening, this age group tends to be ignored in sexual health promotion campaigns. This small‐scale study provides insights that can inform larger studies and help tailor future health education campaigns on HPV for this audience.



Martin, E., Senior, N., Abdullah, A., Brown, J., Collings, S., Racktoo, S., Walpole, S., Zeiton, M. and Heffernan, C. (2011), "Perceptions of HPV vaccine amongst UK university students", Health Education, Vol. 111 No. 6, pp. 498-513.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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