Original Research Article

Applied Health Economics and Health Policy

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 349-359

First online:

The Role of Physician Recommendations and Public Policy in Human Papillomavirus Vaccinations

  • Ali MoghtaderiAffiliated withSchool of Medicine and Health Science, George Washington University
  • , Scott AdamsAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Email author 

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Immunization rates for human papillomavirus (HPV) infections remain low among teenagers despite strong evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines. Physician recommendations of the vaccine are far from universal. Several states have enacted policies that mandate HPV vaccination or distribute educational materials.


To provide policy makers, physicians, and researchers information on the relative importance of physician recommendations and early state-level policies to promote HPV vaccinations among targeted age groups.


We first use probit models to determine the strongest correlates of immunization in a nationally representative US sample of teenagers. We then use instrumental variable probit models to determine the direct role that physician recommendations play in vaccination using plausibly exogenous physician encounters that are likely not the result of more health-conscious parents seeking out information on the vaccine.


We show that children in the targeted age range who are more likely to encounter physicians for reasons other than seeking out the vaccine, such as through mandatory wellness exams or previous asthma diagnoses, are significantly more likely to get the vaccine. There is no consistent evidence that the state policies we analyze have been effective.


Encouraging recommendations by physicians may be the most effective path toward increasing HPV vaccination. State-level mandates and policies are yet to exhibit effectiveness.