Stories about HPV vaccine in social media, traditional media, and conversations

Marjorie A. Margolis, Noel T. Brewer, Parth D. Shah, William A. Calo, Melissa B. Gilkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


How stories from media and social interactions shape parents' HPV vaccination decisions is poorly understood. We sought to characterize parents' exposure to such stories, as well as associations between story exposure and vaccination behavior. Study participants were 1263 parents of U.S. adolescents who had not yet completed the HPV vaccine series. In 2017, these parents completed an online survey about whether they had heard stories of people who were harmed by HPV vaccine or who got diseases HPV vaccine could have prevented. Almost half of parents had heard HPV vaccine stories, which were about vaccine harms only (19%), vaccine preventable diseases only (11%), or both (15%). Stories of harms more often came from social and traditional media; stories of preventable diseases more often came from conversations (all p < 0.01). Parents who heard only stories about harms were less likely than those who heard no stories to have initiated HPV vaccination (23% vs. 33%, aOR:0.48; 95% CI:0.33:0.69). They were more likely to have delayed (79% vs. 66%, aOR:2.00; 95% CI:1.09:3.71) or refused (72% vs. 24%, aOR:8.87; 95% CI:4.09:19.25) HPV vaccination. Exposure to both stories about harms and preventable diseases was similarly associated with initiation, delay and refusal. Exposure to only stories about preventable diseases was not associated with initiation, delay or refusal. In conclusion, stories of HPV vaccine harms may be associated more strongly with vaccination behavior than stories of HPV vaccine preventable diseases. Communication campaigns should consider strategies to elevate stories of preventable diseases in social and traditional media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-256
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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