Contextual Constitution of Behavior: Introducing the HPV Vaccine in Eastern Europe


 Irina Todorova, Northeastern University

 Adriana Baban, Babes-Bolyai University


We are in a time in which we can observe the initial introduction of a much debated new pharmaceutical - the HPV vaccine for the potential prevention of cancers in men and women.  The vaccine embodies a vast array of personal and cultural meanings and discourses, including those of responsibility, control, morality, gender, and sexual behavior.  It also represents multiple interests of many actors (adolescents, parents, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, policymakers).  Their attitudes vary depending on local meanings of sexuality, religious beliefs beliefs, stigma, their experiences and trust in the health care system.  People are not showing up for vaccination in the numbers that public health officials would like to see, or are refusing to administer it to their children.  This situation offers the opportunity to explore the importance of context in explaining and understanding people's motivations and decisions for health-related behaviors and particularly - vaccination.  Health behaviors are understandable or "acquire meaning and significance on the basis of their relationship to the broader social practices".  In this sense, people's decisions regarding health protective behaviors might not conform to rationalistic understandings, or might seem "irrational" or "misinformed", yet make sense when considering the situations which are constitutive of them and the symbolic meanings which they embody.  In this paper we will discuss the contextual aspects of attitudes and behaviors of prevention, disparities in access and implications for prevention, particularly through vaccination with the HPV vaccine.  We will address the relevance of history, healthcare policy and gendered attitudes in Eastern Europe, for the constitution of preventive attitudes and behaviors.

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