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The impact of school-entry mandates on social inequalities in human papillomavirus vaccination


Fundamental cause theory (FCT) is influential for explaining the enduring relationship between social position and health, yet few empirical studies test FCT's contention that policy supporting the equal distribution of interventions across populations can help reduce health inequalities. Following human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine approval, complex socioeconomic and racial-ethnic inequalities emerged in distinct stages of the diffusion of this health innovation. Virginia and the District of Columbia were the first U.S. jurisdictions to implement school-entry HPV vaccination mandates for sixth-grade girls, offering an opportunity to test whether inequalities in HPV vaccination are mitigated by policy that seeks to standardize the age of vaccine administration and remove barriers to knowledge about the vaccine. Using data from the 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen (N = 4579) and a triple-difference approach, this study tests whether vaccine mandates are associated with smaller socioeconomic and racial-ethnic inequalities in health provider recommendation and vaccine uptake. It finds mandates were associated with improvements in provider recommendation and vaccine uptake for some socioeconomic and racial-ethnic groups. However, mandates also likely led to a decline in HPV vaccine series completion overall. Implications of these findings for informing FCT and vaccination policy are discussed.

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