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HPV Vaccination Discourses and the Construction of “At-Risk” Girls

11 September 2018

Publication Date
August 2018

Original Abstract
The objective of this study was to investigate the deployment of HPV vaccination (HPVV) discourses and their impact on Canadian girls, parents, nurses and physicians.

Qualitative methods were favoured and included interviews with participants (n = 146) from four Canadian provinces and diverse socio-cultural locations. Using a poststructuralist discourse analysis, we examined HPVV campaigns as well as interview transcripts to document how girls, parents and health professionals make sense of HPVV as well as how they position themselves within and/or resist discourses coming from industry and public health sources.

The results speak to HPVV campaigns as morally laden, gendered, heteronormative and factually misleading. Emerging from the analysis of interviews is the girls’ and parents’ lack of information regarding HPVV. For mothers, results show how they construct themselves as responsible biocitizens at the cost of the powerlessness, uncertainty, anxiety and fear they feel alongside the perceived imperative to act upon their daughter’s cancer risk. As for health professionals, they generally appropriate dominant HPVV discourses and use fear of HPV infection as a strategy to manufacture consent for HPVV among girls and parents. We discuss the ways in which opportunities for broader dialogue about HPVV and girls’ sexual health are foreclosed and how subject positions for all types of participants are problematic.

We ask whether public health is advanced when HPVV discourses transform healthy bodies into “at-risk” bodies and when the fear of cancer is instrumentalized in the pharmaceuticalization of public health.

Rail, G., Molino, L., Fusco, C., Moss Edaward, N., LeAnne, P., Polzer, J., Moola, F. and Bryson, M. (2018). HPV vaccination discourses and the construction of “at risk” girls. Canadian Journal of public health. DOI: 10.17269/s41997-018-0108-8.

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vaccination, VPH, girl, risk, campaign, sexist, heteronormative, information, incapacity, anxiety, fear


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