Chinese women concerned about shortage of HPV vaccine, drug maker pledges to raise supply
After the Chinese regulators approved the most effective vaccine to prevent cervical cancer recently, women rushed to get the injections but only to find out that the short supply is a hindrance for them to get immunized from the cancer which has a rising incidence in the country.

News about the popular HPV vaccine suddenly running out of stock in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong has recently aroused wide concern, with Xinhua, the official state news agency, conducting an investigation into possible causes behind the worrisome jabs shortage.

“I made an appointment to take the shots last year, but there is no feedback so far. Shanghai is not providing the recently approved Gardasil 9, so I decided to go to Hong Kong,” Sun Huining, a Shanghai resident told Xinhua.

China approved Gardasil 4, an earlier form of the vaccine, in 2016, 10 years after its use in Western countries. The latest Gardasil 9, known to be the most effective, had entered the Hong Kong market in 2016 and was approved in the Chinese mainland last month.

Sun contacted several medial institutions in Hong Kong only to find out that the Gardasil 9 is also facing a supply crisis, with thousands of mainland consumers taking first shot with no guarantee of the next two injections on time to achieve good immunization efficacy.

Sun finally flied to South Korea for the course of inoculations and paid the full price of 4,700 yuan for the whole three shots after being given a written certificate issued by MSD, the vaccine maker in the US. The South China Morning Post reported that the company had issued a notice in Hong Kong at the end of last month, warning of a shortage of the vaccine.

Gardasil 9 is applicable to only females aged between 16 and 26 in Chinese mainland, while in other areas like Hong Kong and South Korea, girls beyond nine years old are allowed to take the jabs. Meanwhile, many mainland women would rather travel to take the injections fearing that they may become overaged by the time the vaccine is truly accessible on the mainland.

“I just could not wait,” said Sun. People are still lining up to take Gardasil 4, so she worried she would wait even longer for Gardasil 9 to reach her in the country. Many mainland women shared similar concerns, according to Xinhua.

Gardasil 4 and 9 are the most effective doses for immunization against the human papilloma virus (HPV) at present.

MSD, the maker of Gardasil 4 and 9, replied to Xinhua by saying they would speed up production on the condition that quality and safety of the drugs are guaranteed. MSD noted it will further increase investment to boost production, in a bid to keep up with the demand.

According to MSD, it had finished price negotiation with the government of South China’s Hainan province, deciding to provide Gardasil 9 at the price of 1,298 yuan per shot. However, no further information about the use of the vaccine in Hainan has been disclosed.

The drug maker told Xinhua, they provided Chinese regulators data collected from clinical study of Gardasil 9 before it was put on the overseas markets and the move led to quick approval. “We’re working to meet other requirements of the nation to apply for clinical experiments on other age groups,” said MSD. 

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