Malawian caregivers’ experiences with HPV vaccination for preadolescent girls: A qualitative study

Corrina Moucheraud, Hannah S. Whitehead, John Songo, Peter G. Szilagyi, Risa M. Hoffman, Blessings N. Kaunda-Khangamwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Many low- and middle-income countries have introduced the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, but uptake remains extremely low. Malawi has the second-highest incidence of cervical cancer globally, and launched a national HPV vaccination program in 2019. We sought to understand attitudes about, and experiences with, the HPV vaccine among caregivers of eligible girls in Malawi. Methods: We conducted qualitative interviews with 40 caregivers (parents or guardians) of preadolescent girls in Malawi to understand their experiences with HPV vaccination. We coded the data informed by the Behavioural and Social Drivers of vaccine uptake model and recommendations from WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy. Results: In this sample, 37% of age-eligible daughters had not received any HPV vaccine doses, 35% had received 1 dose, 19% had received 2 doses, and 10% had an unknown vaccination status. Caregivers were aware of the dangers of cervical cancer, and understood that HPV vaccine is an effective prevention tool. However, many caregivers had heard rumors about the vaccine, particularly its alleged harmful effect on girls’ future fertility. Many caregivers, especially mothers, felt that school-based vaccination was efficient; but some caregivers expressed disappointment that they had not been more engaged in the school-based delivery of HPV vaccine. Caregivers also reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive to vaccination. Conclusions: There are complex and intersecting factors that affect caregivers’ motivation to vaccinate their daughters against HPV, and the practical challenges that caregivers may encounter. We identify areas for future research and intervention that could contribute to cervical cancer elimination: better communicating about vaccine safety (particularly to address concerns about loss of fertility), leveraging the unique advantages of school-based vaccination while ensuring parental engagement, and understanding the complex effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (and vaccination program).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100315
JournalVaccine: X
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • HPV vaccine
  • Malawi
  • Vaccine uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Veterinary
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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