Vaccinate Your Family and the Society for Women’s Health Research Work Together to Promote Vaccine Uptake
Oct 12, 2022

This blog was originally published by the Society for Women’s Health Research – read here

Even as stories about vaccine hesitancy and declining vaccination rates appear across news headlines, there is reason to hope for an increase in U.S. vaccination rates, and specifically for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rate, Erica DeWald, Chief Communication Officer at Vaccinate Your Family, said during an Infectious Diseases Network meeting hosted by the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR).  

“People in the United States still believe in public health,” DeWald said, citing the Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic for Future Public Health Communications report, in which 50% of respondents said they will follow public health guidance on vaccines, testing, and other risk mitigation guidance. COVID-19 vaccine uptake, she added, is generally in line with historical reception of the polio and measles vaccines.  

DeWald shared that, despite HPV vaccination uptake consistently being an uphill climb in the United States, the data around current HPV vaccine rates are hopeful in that they did not see as much of a drop as many other adolescent vaccine rates did during the pandemic. From a public health perspective, DeWald reminded participants that questions about vaccinations should not be considered as vaccine hesitancy; people should feel empowered to ask questions.  

Additionally, DeWald noted it will be important to follow the conversation surrounding the monkeypox vaccine, its rates in children (currently low), and its public association with sexually transmitted diseases – “even though it’s not, let’s be clear,” DeWald said – as it appears similar to the conversations often had about HPV. 

Following DeWald’s presentation, members of SWHR’s Infectious Disease Network spent time discussing challenges and opportunities in HPV vaccine education. Some of the recommendations made by Network members included the following:  

  • Streamlining the overlapping recommendations for adult vaccines (e.g., COVID-19 and its boosters across age groups, HPV for young adults, monkeypox for some populations, and influenza vaccines across age groups) and hosting the recommendations on an easy-to-understand communications platform, which could help combat the feeling of there being too many vaccines to take at once.  
  • Sharing more positive stories around vaccine protection to counteract the negative anecdotes that rise the top of new streams. 
  • Focusing on access to information, particularly evidence-based information related to vaccine safety and efficacy, as a social determinant of health. 
  • Employing shared clinical decision-making. It’s not the choice of clinicians as to whether or not to have the conversation with each patient about vaccines; clinicians should always engage their patients in vaccination conversations. The process of shared decision-making comes in when clinicians help patients determine how to proceed after thoughtful discussion. This type of shared conversation is essential for catch-up HPV vaccinations in people 26-45 years old. 

SWHR closed the meeting by sharing some of its recent efforts related to vaccine education and infectious diseases resources, including the Crucial Vaccination Conversations Roadmap, the Maternal Immunization Quick Guide, and highlights from a cervical cancer prevention conversation hosted earlier this year. Also highlighted was the PREVENT HPV Cancers Act of 2021 (H.R.1550), which aims to advance funding for HPV-related treatment and research through 2026.  

Looking ahead, SWHR will be engaged in a Vaccine Program that will include additional resources about HPV vaccine education, hesitancy, and uptake. Please continue to check the SWHR website, our social media platforms, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on SWHR’s latest educational materials.  

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About SWHR’s Infectious Diseases Network  

SWHR’s Infectious Diseases Network focuses on HPV and related diseases and vaccines. SWHR Science Networks comprise interdisciplinary groups of researchers, clinicians, patient advocates, and other health care leaders with expertise related to a specific disease, condition, or health topic. These Network members engage in scientific, policy, outreach, and education projects focused on identifying and eliminating barriers in women’s health research and care.  

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