The role of media and the Internet on vaccine adverse event reporting: a case study of human papillomavirus vaccination

J Adolesc Health. 2014 Mar;54(3):289-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.09.005. Epub 2013 Nov 17.


Purpose: This study aimed to determine the temporal association of print media coverage and Internet search activity with adverse events reports associated with the human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil (HPV4) and the meningitis vaccine Menactra (MNQ) among United States adolescents.

Methods: We used moderated linear regression to test the relationships between print media reports in top circulating newspapers, Internet search activity, and reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) for HPV4 and MNQ during the first 2.5 years after Food and Drug Administration approval.

Results: Compared with MNQ, HPV4 had more coverage in the print media and Internet search activity, which corresponded with the frequency of VAERS reports. In February 2007, we observed a spike in print media for HPV4. Although media coverage waned, Internet search activity remained stable and predicted the rise in HPV4-associated VAERS reports.

Conclusions: We demonstrate that media coverage and Internet search activity, in particular, may promote increased adverse event reporting. Public health officials who have long recognized the importance of proactive engagement with news media must now consider strategies for meaningful participation in Internet discussions.

Keywords: Internet; Mass media; Meningococcal vaccines; Newspapers; Papillomavirus vaccines; Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bibliometrics
  • Human Papillomavirus Recombinant Vaccine Quadrivalent, Types 6, 11, 16, 18
  • Humans
  • Internet* / statistics & numerical data
  • Journalism, Medical*
  • Linear Models
  • Mass Media
  • Meningococcal Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Newspapers as Topic*
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Search Engine / statistics & numerical data
  • United States


  • Human Papillomavirus Recombinant Vaccine Quadrivalent, Types 6, 11, 16, 18
  • Meningococcal Vaccines
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines