PLoS One. 2022 Nov 18;17(11):e0277748. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277748. eCollection 2022.
INTRODUCTION: Despite its benefits, HPV vaccine uptake has been historically lower than other recommended adolescent vaccines in the United States (US). While hesitancy and misinformation have threatened vaccinations for many years, the adverse impacts from COVID-19 pandemic on preventive services have been far-reaching.
OBJECTIVES: To explore the perceptions and experiences of adolescent healthcare providers regarding routine vaccination services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
METHODOLOGY: Between December 2020 and May 2021, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted via Zoom video conferencing among a purposively selected, diverse group of adolescent healthcare providers (n = 16) within 5 healthcare practices in the US southeastern states of Georgia and Tennessee. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a rapid qualitative analysis framework. Our analysis was guided by the grounded theory and inductive approach.
RESULTS: Participants reported that patient-provider communications; effective use of presumptive languaging; provider’s continuing education/training; periodic reminders/recall messages; provider’s personal conviction on vaccine safety/efficacy; early initiation of HPV vaccination series at 9 years; community partnerships with community health navigators/vaccine champions/vaccine advocates; use of standardized forms/prewritten scripts/standard operating protocols for patient-provider interactions; and vaccine promotion through social media, brochures/posters/pamphlets as well as outreaches to schools and churches served as facilitators to adolescent HPV vaccine uptake. Preventive adolescent services were adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic at all practices. Participants highlighted an initial decrease in patients due to the pandemic, while some practices avoided the distribution of vaccine informational materials due to sanitary concerns.
CONCLUSION: As part of a larger study, we provided contextual information to refine an intervention package currently being developed to improve adolescent preventive care provision in healthcare practices. Our results could inform the implementation of comprehensive intervention strategies that improve HPV vaccination rates. Additionally, lessons learned (e.g. optimizing patient- provider interactions) could be adopted to expand COVID-19 vaccine acceptance on a sizable scale.