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Cervical Cancer Vaccine Under Consideration in Europe

Governments in Europe are considering vaccinating young girls against a virus that causes cervical cancer.//

The Standing Commission for Vaccination at the Robert Koch-Institute in Germany has recommended the universal vaccination of girls aged 12 to 17 years.

The Italian Ministry of Health has announced that vaccination of 12 years old girls in Italy can start as soon as regional vaccination centers are prepared.

Government advisors are considering whether the vaccine should be introduced in the UK.

Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a large group or related viruses. They play a part in the development of cervical epithelial cancers. HPV is also associated with skin, oral and anal cancers.

Gardasil, made by Merck and Sanofi Pasteur, offers protection against HPV types 16 and 18, which are responsible for 70% of all cervical cancers. They could also be effective against types 6 and 11, which cause about 90% of cases of genital warts.

UK-based GlaxoSmithKline also has a HPV vaccine, called Cervarix, in development. But it has not yet been licensed in Europe.

Around 80% of sexually active women can expect to have an HPV infection at some point in their lives.

And cervical cancer kills 274,000 women worldwide every year, including 1,120 in the UK.

In an editorial published last year, The Lancet called for mandatory vaccination against HPV for girls in all EU member states once they are 11 or 12.

The issue has been controversial, as some parents fear such vaccines against sexually transmitted viruses could promote underage sex.

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