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Expansion in use of cancer vaccine

Now that Brazil has introduced vaccines against cervical cancer, more than 80 percent of girls in the Americas can get them, the Pan American Health Organization announced last month.

The vaccines “will have a major impact on cervical cancer mortality,” said Dr. Jon K. Andrus, deputy director of the organization.

In 20 countries in this hemisphere, from Canada to Argentina, the vaccine is either available free at public hospitals or paid for by private insurers. Brazil plans to eventually vaccinate all girls age 9 and older at school or through 36,000 public clinics.

Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and a few other nations have not yet adopted the vaccine because of its cost, said Dr. Andrea Vicari, a Pan American Health Organization vaccine specialist. In poor countries where Pap smears are uncommon, cervical cancer is still a major killer; it caused the deaths of 4,800 Brazilian women last year. In Africa, deaths are increasing rapidly because HIV wipes out the body’s ability to stop the human papillomavirus from progressing to cancer.

Despite early opposition from Christian conservatives who argued that protecting girls from cancer might tempt them to engage in premarital sex, evidence has mounted since they were introduced in 2006 that the vaccines, sold in the U.S. as Gardasil and Cervarix, are safe and effective.

More than 170 million doses have been given worldwide without serious adverse reactions. In the U.S., infections from HPV Types 16 and 18, which cause 70 percent of cervical cancers, have dropped by half. Young women in Australia and Denmark, which introduced the vaccines early, have had sharp declines in precancerous lesions.

—Donald G. Mcneil Jr, The New York Times

Lufthansa warns of disruptions if strike occurs

PARIS — German flagship airline Lufthansa warned Monday that a strike planned by its largest pilots’ union this week would probably be one of the most disruptive in its history, threatening to affect more than 425,000 passengers across its global network.

Last-ditch negotiations during the weekend between the airline and leaders of the union representing the majority of Lufthansa’s 5,500 pilots, Vereinigung Cockpit, failed to resolve a protracted dispute over changes in pay and retirement benefits.

The union has called for a walkout beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and lasting until 11:59 p.m. Friday.

In a statement, the Frankfurt-based company said 3,800 passenger and cargo flights operated by Lufthansa and its low-cost Germanwings subsidiary — almost 90 percent of regularly scheduled flights — would be canceled over the strike period. The airline said it had begun rebooking as many Lufthansa and Germanwings passengers as possible on other airlines or on trains for domestic German routes, an exercise that Lufthansa said would probably reduce its profit by “tens of millions of euros.”

Pilots at the group’s other European subsidiaries — including Swiss International, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings and Brussels Airlines — are not participating in the strike.

The planned strike follows months of negotiations over pay and over contracts for pilots who accept early retirement.

Jörg Handwerg, a spokesman for the pilots’ union, said that the union had expressed willingness to accept some limits to Lufthansa’s contributions to a benefits plan for pilots who retire early but that this was not taken up by management.

“We can’t see any willingness that Lufthansa really wants to negotiate,” Handwerg said. “What they really seem to want is to get rid of this pension plan once and for all.”

—Nicola Clark, The New York Times