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The vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) protectsindividuals from cancer by preventing HPV infection. This vaccination is recommended for people who are assigned male or female at birth. However, since these groups are often associated with different risks of HPV infection, there may be gaps in how effectively the vaccination is recommended to patients. We gathered data by viewing recordings of medical students taking histories from standardized patients. We recorded if and which vaccinations were discussed as the patients established primary care. We focused on discussions surrounding HPV vaccines and used discussions around influenza vaccines as a comparison. We recorded if and how each vaccine was recommended, suggested, or discouraged. We reviewed 83 patient encounters. Only61% of students explicitly discussed vaccinations.Within these discussions, students were more likely to recommend or suggest vaccinations against influenza (63%) than HPV (29%). Students discussed the HPV vaccine more frequently with patients who were assigned female (within 56% versus 21% of vaccine discussions) but were slightly more likely to recommend amongthe assigned male patients(80% vs 73%). Many students used ambivalent or suggestive language rather than clear recommendations that communicatedt he importance of vaccination. Targeting HPV vaccine discussions toward patientswho are assigned female at birth leaves a large portion of society at risk for infection and transmission of HPV. Misinformation around vaccinations has caused many people to distrust vaccines, so it is critical for physicians to develop communication skills to effectively discuss and explain vaccines to patients.

Publication Date

Spring 2021


HPV; Vaccines; MERA


Medical Education

HPV Vaccine Discussions Between Medical Students and Standardized Patients