Correcting HPV Vaccination Misinformation Online: Evaluating The Social Media Campaign

Beth Sundstrom, Department of Communication, College of Charleston
Kathleen B. Cartmell, Department of Public Health Sciences, Clemson University
Ashley A. White
Henry Well, South Carolina Cancer Alliance
Jennifer Young Pierce, Mitchell Cancer Institute, University of South Alabama
Heather M. Brandt, University of South Carolina

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).


The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine provides protection from six HPV-related cancers. Approximately half of South Carolina adolescents have not completed the vaccination series, representing a missed opportunity to prevent cancer. The social media campaign is an initiative of the South Carolina Cancer Alliance (SCCA) and Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). This statewide social media campaign aimed to increase parental awareness of and build vaccine confidence around HPV vaccination in S.C. The ten-week campaign was strategically implemented between June and August 2019 to encourage HPV vaccination at back-to-school medical appointments. A process evaluation showed that the campaign resulted in over 370,000 total impressions, reached over 33,000 individuals, and culminated with over 1122 followers. There were over 2700 engagements on Facebook and Twitter. A qualitative content analysis indicated that pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine comments were dominated by personal stories. Comments promoting misinformation about the HPV vaccine were often countered through peer-to-peer dialogue. Findings suggest that creating opportunities for the target audience to engage with campaign messages effectively corrected misinformation.