Exploring the presentation of news information about the HPV vaccine: a content analysis of a representative sample of U.S. newspaper articles

Health Commun. 2011 Sep;26(6):491-501. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2011.556080. Epub 2011 Jun 24.


Approximately 20 million people in the United States have genital human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection linked to cancer. We examined the news information presented about the HPV vaccine in major U.S. newspapers over the 19 months following its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. To answer the question of how news information is presented in ways that might influence public health, we explored the frequency of cancer prevention and sexually transmitted infection prevention message frames used to describe the HPV vaccine, the extent to which journalists relied on official sources, and the presence of personal examples. A content analysis of 547 newspaper articles revealed that less than half of the articles provided detailed health information. Of the articles that contained a message frame, cancer prevention was most frequently employed. Government/political sources, medical doctors, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were the most commonly cited sources. Finally, we found that only 16% of all the articles we sampled featured personal accounts. Together, our findings suggest that U.S. newspaper coverage lacked detailed information about both HPV and the HPV vaccine in spite of federal approval of the vaccine, legal mandates for the vaccine, and a widespread information campaign. Implications for public health are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics*
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Newspapers as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines* / adverse effects
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines* / therapeutic use
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / prevention & control
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines