Gender, sex and equal health: including boys in the HPV vaccination programme in Swedish primary schools


Ylva Odenbring & Lisa Lindén (2023) Gender, sex and equal health: school nurses’ strategies and experiences of including boys in the HPV vaccination programme in Swedish primary schools, Sex Education, 23:5, 617-630, DOI: 10.1080/14681811.2022.2106959


Since autumn 2020, boys in the fifth year of school (11-year-old students) in Sweden have been offered human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for free. Drawing from individual interviews with 21 school nurses working in primary schools in one of Sweden’s regions, the aim of this study was to explore nurses’ strategies and experiences of informing students and their guardians about the new vaccination programme, HPV and sex.

Drawing on feminist theories on respectability and heteronormativity, findings indicate that heteronormative understandings of sexual relations frame school nurses’ narratives when informing students about HPV.

The results also indicate that including boys in the vaccination programme has been fairly straightforward and when guardians hesitate or refuse to include their children in the vaccination programme, it is often girls’ guardians who do so.

School nurses’ narratives suggest that guardians’ main argument for not vaccinating their daughters is because they believe they are too young. These narratives are framed around an understanding of the ‘respectable girl’.

The results of our study highlight the importance of addressing equality, sexuality, sex and HPV as part of sexuality, consent and relations (sexualitet, samtycke och relationer) education in Swedish schools.

By J Pope

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