Study: Support of mandatory HPV vaccine declines after negative news coverage

Laws mandating the HPV vaccine have aroused debate among parents, politicians, and medical and public health experts. And news coverage about such requirements tend to amplify this controversy, possibly leading to negative attitudes among the public about the value of the HPV vaccine or other vaccines, researchers have found.

The researchers administered an Internet-based survey to a randomly selected sample of participants representative of the U.S. population. Participants were assigned to two groups who were then exposed to two different hypothetical news briefs about legislative action related to the HPV vaccine. One presented the HPV vaccine as enjoying widespread support and the other positioned the vaccine as controversial. The study found that awareness of controversy resulted in diminished public support for legally mandating the HPV vaccine, according to a University of Michigan statement.

"This research raises important questions about how the news media's tendency to report on controversy shapes public opinion about health policy," Sarah Gollust, assistant professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota, says in a statement.

While support for HPV vaccine legislation waned in the shadow of controversy, support for other vaccines remained unchanged. Some public health experts have worried that publicized controversy over the HPV vaccine could lead to public concerns about other childhood vaccines, an important issue because of recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like whooping cough and measles.

The study data appears in the November issue of the journal Health Affairs.

- get the University of Michigan release