Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination mandates fall short of ensuring both higher levels of uptake and equal uptakes of the vaccine across socioeconomic and racial-ethnic groups, according to a recent study published in SSM-Population Health.

The findings of this study could potentially affect the distribution and uptake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, according to author Andrea Polonijo, PhD . If the vaccine is unable to reach people at all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, it will not be effective in ending the pandemic, according to the study.

Investigators used 2008-09 and 2011-13 data from the National Immunization Survey-Teen in order to gain a nationally representative sample. Polonijo found that receiving a recommendation from a provider greatly increased the odds that a teen got their first HPV shot. 

Additionally, non-Hispanic whites and girls with a higher socioeconomic status tended to receive more physician recommendations for the vaccine than their lower socioeconomic and racial-ethnic minority status peers. Additionally, mandates did not improve rates of HPV vaccination or lead to more equitable distribution of the vaccine across racial-ethnic and socioeconomic groups, according to the study. 

"HPV vaccine mandates were accompanied by pharmaceutical manufacturer lobbying, political debate, and controversial news coverage, which made them unpopular among parents who may have questioned whether compliance was in their daughter's best interest and opted them out," she said. "Mandates also did not make it any easier for teens to access HPV vaccines and there was no widely used surveillance or reminder system in place to recall teens who were due for shots," Polonijo said in a press release. 
 
According to the study, one of the reasons the mandates were unpopular is that HPV is sexually transmitted and cannot be transmitted through casual contact. People are more likely to vaccinate against illnesses that are more easily spread, such as the flu and COVID-19, Polonijo added. 

Reference:
Impact of HPV vaccination mandates on social inequalities [News Release] October 5, 2020; Riverside, CA. https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/uoc--ioh100520.php. Accessed October 6, 2020.