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Girls to be vaccinated in fight against cancer

A campaign has begun in Switzerland to vaccinate young girls against a virus that can lead to cervical cancer, the Federal Health Office announced on Monday.

This content was published on September 15, 2008 - 13:18

Health Office director Thomas Zeltner said he was convinced that vaccinating girls between 11 and 14 years old against human papilloma virus, or HPV, would help reduce cases of cervical cancer, which can go undetected for years.

Less potent strains of HPV can cause warts. A deadlier variety causes 2,000 women in Switzerland each year to develop the preliminary stages of cervical cancer. About 160 of them get the disease and 50 die.

Switzerland's health insurance system will cover costs, estimated to be SFr100-120 million ($89.5-$49.3 million) over the next three years. The vaccination should protect girls from the most common strains of the virus for five to ten years.

"The terms of this procedure aren't at all fixed," Zeltner said. "It's too early to determine the next steps."

Switzerland is among a growing number of European nations in recommending that girls get the vaccine.

Health officials say even though men are just as likely to be infected as women, it is not yet known if the vaccine is effective on them.

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