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Monday's papers: HPV vaccine for boys, Swedish-speaking schools and record-warm Lapland

A plan to vaccinate boys against the human papilloma virus, the successes of Swedish-language upper secondary schools and a November heat record.

Utsjoen kirkkotuvat kylmänä talvi-iltana.
Image: Esko Jämsä / AOP

A group of medical experts will soon decide whether or not boys in Finland could also become eligible for the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination, daily Turun Sanomat writes.

The vaccine, which prevents a large proportion of cervical cancer cases if given before a female is exposed to the virus, has been part of the national vaccination programme for 11-12-year-old girls since 2013. However, men can also contract the virus that causes genital warts and cancers.

Even if the panel consisting of oncologists and immunisation specialists from the National Institute from Health and Welfare (THL) decides to recommend an HPV vaccination for boys, it would nonetheless take at least two years before the administration of shots would begin, TS writes.

Simopekka Vänskä, a researcher from the THL's Department of Vaccines and Immune Protection, said Parliament needs to approve the budget for the new vaccination programme first. The agency would then organise a bid to determine who would provide the vaccine.

According to the paper, approximately 70 percent of girls between 11 and 12 years of age are immunised against HPV in Finland each year. "This is not sufficient to create herd immunity against HPV. However, international models and our calculations show that if the same number of boys and girls in a given age group are vaccinated, infections will disappear and the spread of the virus can be stopped completely," Vänskä said.

"Even if vaccinations are not free, they help save large amounts of money by preventing surgeries and the use of strenuous cytostatic therapies that treating cancer tends to entail," he added.

Swedish-language schools top the list

In other news, two Swedish-speaking general upper secondary schools (or high schools) topped the list of best such educational institutions in Finland, writes the Swedish-language paper Hufvudstadsbladet.

According to Hbl, a review by news agency STT compared the starting level of students with the results of the matriculation exams at the end of schooling. In other words, upper secondary schools that were most successful at improving students’ educational achievement performed the best, Hbl writes.

Among the largest schools where at least 50 students participate in the matriculation exam, Katedralskolan in Turku fared the best, while Topeliusgymnasiet in Kristinestad in western Finland beat the other schools among the smaller institutions. What is more, six out of ten best-performing small schools were Swedish-speaking, the paper said. Just over five percent of people in Finland speak Swedish as their mother tongue.

Record-warm Lapland

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that November was considerably warmer than average in Finnish Lapland, with temperatures in Kilpisjärvi hovering about seven degrees above the temperatures typically recorded at this time of the year.

Based on information from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), IS said that the long-term mean temperature for Kilpisjärvi located in the arm of Finland is -7.5 degrees, while in November of this year the thermometer dropped to only -0.2 degrees on average.

According to the paper, Mika Rantanen from the FMI tweeted that in some areas of Lapland, last month "was the warmest ever measured."

Besides Kilpisjärvi, other areas of Lapland have also recorded significantly higher temperatures this year, FMI said. For example, only once during the 110-year measuring history - in November 1967 - has the average temperature in Sodankylä, which lies just north of the Arctic Circle and 130 km north of Rovaniemi, been higher than last month.

Statistics also show that snow depth in Lapland is currently below the average for this time of year. Figures from the FMI indicate that typically there is 31 cm of snow in Kittilä on 30 November. However, the snow depth only amounted to 6 cm this November, the paper writes.

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