In September 2008, the human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme was introduced in the UK for schoolgirls aged between 12 and 18 years of age. The vaccine shows high efficacy in preventing infection against HPV types 16 and 18 responsible for 70% of cervical cancer. However, to be most effective, the vaccine needs to be administered before exposure to the viruses and therefore, ideally, before young people become sexually active. The introduction of any new vaccine, and perhaps particularly one given to young teenage girls to prevent a sexually transmitted cancer-causing virus, has the potential to attract a great deal of media attention. This paper reports on content analysis of 344 articles published between January 2005 and December 2008 in 15 UK newspapers. It includes both manifest and latent analysis to examine newsprint media coverage of the introduction of the HPV vaccination programme and its role in HPV advocacy. We concluded that the newspapers were generally positive towards the new HPV vaccination and that over the 4 years period the newsworthiness of the HPV vaccination programme increased. In 2008 two events dominated coverage, firstly, the introduction of the HPV programme in September 2008 and secondly, in August 2008 the diagnosis on camera of cervical cancer given to Jade Goody, a 27 year old mother of two, who gained fame and notoriety in the UK through her participation in several reality television shows. There are two conclusions from this study. Firstly, the positive media coverage surrounding the introduction of the HPV vaccination programme is to be welcomed as it is likely to contribute towards influencing public perceptions about the acceptability and need for HPV vaccination. Secondly, the focus on prevalence rates of HPV infection among women and on women's sexual behaviours, in relation to HPV vaccination 'encouraging' promiscuity, is an unhelpful aspect of media coverage.
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