Undergraduate Helps Publish Review That Finds Lower Levels of Trust in HPV Vaccines Among Racial and Ethnic Minorities

August 27, 2021

Carolyn Y. Fang, PhD, senior author on the study.Carolyn Y. Fang, PhD, senior author on the study.

PHILADELPHIA (August 27, 2021)—Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center recently published a study that found that lower levels of trust in community and healthcare sources plays a role in uptake of the vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine among racial and ethnic minorities in the United States.

This study was led by Nicole Harrington, a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania who participated in Fox Chase’s Immersion Science Program in high school and continues to participate as an instructor.

“The Immersion Science Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center has been training high school students in cancer research for nine years,” said Alana M. O’Reilly, PhD, associate professor in the Molecular Therapeutics Research Program and scientific director of the Immersion Science Program at Fox Chase.

“Participants conduct genetic screens to identify nutrients that affect cancer signaling pathways using fruit flies and then design their own projects that reflect the health needs of their families and communities.”

Harrington was sponsored by a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE) supplement to Fox Chase’s Cancer Center Support Grant, funded by the National Cancer Institute. She collaborated with senior author Carolyn Y. Fang, PhD, professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program and Associate Director of Population Science at Fox Chase.

Harrington worked on the study, which investigated possible explanations for suboptimal HPV vaccination coverage among adolescents and young adults in the United States, during the summer of 2020. She and other researchers examined levels of trust in doctors and healthcare groups through a literature search on PubMed, a vast website for searching biomedical and life sciences journal articles.

“We looked at vaccine attitudes and vaccine rates among different populations, whether it’s Hispanic college women or Black mothers, and tied it back into their perception of government health officials, physicians that they know, and pharmaceutical companies,” said Harrington. “We also looked at whether they are more likely to get their information from these sources or from friends, word of mouth, radio stations, clergy, or other sources.”  

Harrington said that in examining this literature, she and other researchers found that mistrust of healthcare providers, government agencies or pharmaceutical companies was consistently associated with less favorable attitudes and lower vaccine uptake.

“I found the introduction of clergy most interesting. Churches in the Black community are considered a community center,” said Harrington. “I thought it was really interesting seeing how they reported getting their information from those sources, compared with their white counterparts, who were more likely to get their information from physicians.”

She said the next step for this project is to develop initiatives that will directly target those sources to help them disseminate information to groups who are most in need of vaccines.

The study, “The Role of Trust in HPV Vaccine Uptake Among Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the United States: A Narrative Review,” was published in the journal AIMS Public Health.


The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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