Bad news: The influence of news coverage and Google searches on Gardasil adverse event reporting
Human papilloma virus vaccines are a safe and effective tool for reducing HPV infections that can cause cervical cancer. However, uptake of these vaccines has been suboptimal, with many people holding negative beliefs and misconceptions. Such beliefs have been linked with the experience of unpleasant side effects following medical treatment, and media coverage may heighten such concerns.
The present study sought to assess the influence of news coverage (number of news articles per month) on adverse event reporting in response to Gardasil vaccination in New Zealand over a 7.5-year period, and whether the influence of news coverage was mediated by internet search activity (Google search volumes). Multiple linear regression analyses and simple mediation analyses were used, controlling for year and number of vaccinations delivered.
News coverage in the previous month, and Google search volumes in the same month, were significant predictors of adverse event reporting, after accounting for vaccination rates and year. Concurrent Google search volumes partially mediated the effect of prior news coverage.
The results suggest that some of the adverse events reported were not related to the vaccination itself, but to news coverage and internet search volumes, which may have contributed to public concerns about potentially unpleasant or harmful outcomes. These findings have implications for the importance of psychological and social factors in adverse event reporting, and the role of the news media in disseminating health information.
Edited by Smaragda