Fear as an agent of good?

The graph shows the annual number of cases of ...

The graph shows the annual number of cases of various cancers worldwide. The fraction of cancers estimated to be induced by HPV is shown in red. For example, nearly all cases of cervical cancer are believed to be caused by HPV. Parkin, D. M. (2006) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our recent discussion about viruses and cancer led Afolake Ogunfuwa (3 PM Micro) to find this summary about the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine:

The  Science daily news website published a discussion about a study carried out by researchers in Ohio State University on the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine. The study seemed to suggest that researchers concluded that a promotion of HPV vaccine use, based on scaring the population about cancer may not be working. They maintained that emphasizing the fact that the vaccine prevents a Sexually transmitted disease (STD) may be the way to go.

The website suggested that there is a conventional wisdom that: getting women vaccinated by scarring them is the best way to get them vaccinated. They further mentioned that the “cancer-threat” message has failed and attributed that statement to a lead author of the study on the HPV vaccine, an assistant professor of communication by the name of Janice Krieger. Apparently, the study maintained that women don’t respond to cancer threat, and that young women seemed more worried about getting an STD.      The website discussion went on to briefly describe the study and the driving idea behind it. The conclusion of the study apparently was that putting emphasis on the HPV vaccine ability to prevent genital warts was a clear winner with young women.

Beyond this point, the website seemed to add the word “FEAR” into carefully chosen points in the discussion. The overall impression the study gave, was made to look like a statement that confirmed that fear does not work in getting people vaccinated.

As a student of Microbiology, I understand that humans live in a world immersed in microbes, many of which influence man in a positive manner and many of which cause harm like some of the viruses in the last lecture that promote the activity of protooncogenes and thereby are suspected to promote the development of cancers. The fact that cancers claim millions of lives every year should sober us into more thoughtful discussion of these issues at all times, and matters of life and death should never be cheapened into vain promotion of narrow points of view.

To encourage women, particularly the young, to give themselves a fighting chance against this killer, by getting the HPV vaccine is not an attempt to scare women into doing anything. But, this website maintained throughout their discussion that vaccine use had always been promoted by just scarring women into getting the vaccine. A presentation of facts, a promotion of knowledge and truthful discuss is always the way forward. Get vaccinated!


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on May 8, 2013, in Danger danger danger!, Guest Post and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Fear as an agent of good?.

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