Challenges to Adolescent HPV Vaccination and Implementation of Evidence-Based Interventions to Promote Vaccine Uptake During the COVID-19 Pandemic: "HPV is Probably Not at the Top of Our List"
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many adolescents from receiving their vaccines, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, on time. However, little is known about the impact of the pandemic on implementation of clinic-level evidence-based interventions (EBIs) that help to improve HPV vaccine uptake. In this qualitative study, we explored the pandemic’s impact on EBI implementation and HPV vaccine delivery.
During August–November 2020, we interviewed clinic managers in a rural, midwestern state about their experiences implementing EBIs for HPV vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic. We used a multipronged sampling approach with both stratified and purposive sampling to recruit participants from Vaccines for Children clinics. We then conducted a thematic analysis of transcripts.
In interviews (N = 18), 2 primary themes emerged: decreased opportunities for HPV vaccination and disruption to HPV-related implementation work. Most participants reported decreases in opportunities to vaccinate caused by structural changes in how they delivered care (eg, switched to telehealth visits) and patient fear of exposure to COVID-19. Disruptions to EBI implementation were primarily due to logistical challenges (eg, decreases in staffing) and shifting priorities.
During the pandemic, clinics struggled to provide routine care, and as a result, many adolescents missed HPV vaccinations. To ensure these adolescents do not fall behind on this vaccine series, providers and researchers will need to recommit to EBI implementation and use existing strategies to promote vaccination. In the long term, improvements are needed to make EBI implementation more resilient to ensure that progress does not come to a halt in future pandemic events.