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News Release 10-006

Who's Afraid of the HPV Vaccine?

Study says people's values shape perceptions of HPV vaccine risk

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A new study reveals that individuals who favor authority and other traditional values and who are likely to see the human-papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as condoning premarital sex, perceive the vaccine as risky. But individuals, who strongly support gender equality and government involvement in basic health care, are more likely to see the vaccine as low risk and high benefit. The Center for Disease Control recommended routine vaccination of girls ages 11 or 12 in October of 2009.

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The "cultural cognition thesis" argues that individuals form risk perceptions based on often-contested personal views about what makes a good society. Now, Yale University Law professor Dr. Dan Kahan and his colleagues reveals how people's values shape their perceptions of one of the most hotly debated health care proposals in recent years: vaccinating elementary-school girls, ages 11-12, against human papillomavirus (HPV), a widespread sexually transmitted disease.

Credit: National Science Foundation, Yale University