News media coverage of policies surrounding the HPV vaccine before and after Texas Governor Rick Perry's executive order, February 2006-February 2008
Objective. In June 2006, the first vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) was approved by the FDA and shortly after approval, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend the HPV vaccine for young girls. As a result of ACIP recommendations, state legislators introduced bills to mandate the vaccine. Policies related to public health issues, such as vaccination mandates, are often influenced by news coverage of these issues. News media, particularly in times of controversies, reinforce specific messages and plays an essential role in framing issues for the public. The objective of this study is to examine the quality, content, and scope of policies for the HPV vaccine before and after Texas Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order mandating the vaccine for middle school girls.
Methods. The Lexis-Nexis database was used to identify 335 articles on HPV vaccination mandate policies that were published in U.S. newspapers from February 1, 2006 to February 2, 2008. The coding instrument captured information about article type, main news story concern, general information about HPV, HPV vaccine mandate policies, arguments for and against HPV vaccination mandates, arguments for and against the HPV vaccine, and sources of information.
Results. Most news articles (82.4%) occurred after Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order mandating the HPV vaccine. Most articles mentioned that HPV is sexually transmitted (90.7%) and linked HPV infection to cervical cancer (96.1%). Only 63.9% of the articles reported that the HPV vaccine protects against types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and 18.8% of the articles reported that the vaccine protects against genital warts. Only 18.2% of the news articles presented a balanced argument regarding mandatory HPV vaccinations, and only 39.4% of the news articles presented a balanced argument for the HPV vaccine.
Conclusions. Our study revealed that news coverage regarding mandating the HPV vaccine and issues related to the vaccine itself is biased, unbalanced, and incomplete. Since the public pays a great deal of attention to health in the media, it is essential that news stories are balanced, complete, and accurate. In order to ensure that future vaccination mandates are not covered in the same way the HPV vaccination was, public health officials, health care providers and scientists should work effectively with the media to ensure that balanced information is provided.
0573: Public health
0680: Health education
0708: Mass communications