Sunday, October 19, 2014
Poster Board # PS1-35

Ioana Arbone, B.A., MSc, University of Toronto, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to relate human papillomavirus (HPV) risk perceptions to vaccination willingness among a sample of undergraduate students enrolled in Health Sciences and Business programs (Canada).

Method: An on-line survey was distributed at two points in time: (1) at the beginning of the Winter semester; (2) at the end of the Winter semester. Data on demographics (i.e. gender, program of study, willingness, previous HPV vaccination, familiarity with HPV vaccine issues) was collected during the first phase. HPV vaccine risk perceptions (VACRISK) were measured during the second phase with a 6-item 4-point Likert scale questionnaire used by Kahan et al. (2010). Questions were randomly ordered.

Result: The study link was made available online for 9 undergraduate classes from Business (2nd year) and Health Sciences (2nd year and 3rd year) in a Canadian University. In total, 63 students responded. Since 29 respondents had already taken the vaccine, analysis on willingness to vaccinate was performed on the remaining 34 (males=11, females=23). Results show that females’ willingness to be vaccinated against HPV is related to their risk perceptions of the vaccine (p=.001). This is also the case for males (p=.011). Though females’ willingness is impacted by how safe they perceive the vaccine to be, their belief as to whether this vaccine causes girls to be more sexually active does not affect their willingness to take the vaccine. Indeed, the items “universal HPV vaccination program for girls will lead girls to become more sexually active” and “young women vaccinated against HPV are more likely to engage in sex without a condom” are not significantly related to willingness to take the vaccine (p=.325; p=.254). No differences were detected among female students enrolled in Health Sciences and those enrolled in Business programs in terms of willingness or HPV vaccine risk perceptions.

Conclusion: When communicating to young university students about the HPV vaccine, health care practitioners should pay attention to students’ risk perceptions of this vaccine. With women, the focus should be on vaccine safety and perceptions of overall risks with the consideration that a possible increase in sexual behavior does not affect their willingness to take the vaccine. However, because of the small sample size, results should be interpreted and generalized with caution.