Parental perspectives on vaccinating children against sexually transmitted infections

Rose M. Mays, Lynne A. Sturm, Gregory D. Zimet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

173 Scopus citations


Several vaccines for sexually transmitted infections (STI) are presently in development and the eventual availability of such vaccines is expected to result in the prevention of a significant number of burdensome conditions. Young adolescents are presumed to be likely targets for these vaccines since adolescents' risk for STI increases as they age and become sexually active. It is unclear, however, to what extent parents will agree to having adolescents receive STI vaccines. Inasmuch as acceptance is the foundation for effective immunization programs, an understanding of parental perspectives about this issue is required to inform future STI vaccine program strategies. This paper presents findings from a qualitative study that used in-depth interviews to elicit attitudes from 34 parents about accepting vaccines for genital herpes, human immunodeficiency virus, human papillomavirus and gonorrhea for their children (aged 8-17). Data were collected from parents bringing their children for care at an urban clinic and a suburban private office. Content analysis of the responses revealed that most parents (>70%) approved the administration of all four of the STI vaccines proposed. Parents' reasons for acceptance included wanting to protect their children, being concerned about specific disease characteristics, and previous experience with the infections. Parents who declined the vaccines did so primarily because they perceived their children to be at low risk for the infections or they had low concern about features of the diseases. Most parents thought they should be the decision-maker regarding children receiving an STI vaccine. Results from this study will be used to plan subsequent investigations of the determinants of STI vaccine acceptance by parents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1405-1413
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Adolescents
  • Health beliefs
  • Immunization
  • Parents
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • USA
  • Vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Health(social science)

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