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date: 05 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the difference in the US public’s reactions to proposals for universal administration of two adolescent immunizations: the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which provoked a firestorm of political controversy, and the Hepatitis B (HBV) vaccine, which aroused no such opposition. This chapter argues that the reason for this was that the public became familiar with the latter (but not the former) in a polluted science communication environment. It identifies decisions made by the vaccine’s manufacturer that drove the HPV vaccine off the nonpoliticized administrative-approval path followed by the HBV vaccine and every other mandated childhood vaccine and onto a highly politicized, highly partisan legislative one that predictably provoked identity-protective cognition. The chapter argues that such controversy will likely recur unless protection of the science communication environment is itself made a self-conscious object of the institutions, governmental and nongovernmental, that play a role in the dissemination of decision-relevant science.

Keywords: human papillomavirus, HPV vaccine, Hepatitis B, HBV vaccine, science communication environment, protective cognition

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