City's women face severe shortage of key HPV vaccine

Shanghai has been hit by the critical nationwide shortage of a particular type of the human papillomavirus vaccine that can reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

Shanghai has been hit by the critical nationwide shortage of a particular type of the human papillomavirus vaccine that can reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

The 4-valent vaccine, one of two types available in mainland China, is mainly given to women aged between 20 and 45. The other, 2-valent for ages 9 to 25, is facing no shortage.

Shanghai’s disease control and prevention authorities say the shortage is due to demand for the imported vaccine outstripping supply.

Some clinics, such as the Jing’an Temple Community Health Care Center in Jing’an District, say demand for the 4-valent vaccine is almost 30 times more than its availability. Other centers say women making appointments now may have to wait until next year for a shot.

The vaccine is delivered in three doses, but city health authorities say delaying the second or third shots will not affect the effectiveness of the first vaccination.

The 2-valent and 4-valent vaccines inoculate against HPV 16 and 18 — which cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer — and the 4-valent also guards against HPV 6 and 11, which cause genital warts.

A woman surnamed Yu, who works in Shanghai, said she is still waiting after first trying to make an appointment for the 4-valent shot in mid-April at community health centers in the Pudong New Area and Huangpu District.

The national shortage is also hitting particularly hard in Beijing, Guangzhou and Wuhan.

US-based pharmaceutical company MSD, which supplies the vaccines in China, said its supply chain was struggling to handle rising global demand.

“We’re delighted to see the booming demand for the 4-valent HPV vaccine since it became available on China’s mainland last May thanks to the continuous efforts from various stakeholders to raise women’s health awareness,” MSD said in an e-mail statement to Shanghai Daily.

MSD said it was increasing investment to raise output while maintaining quality and safety and would continue to work with local government to improve availability for women in China.

No answers yet

But health workers in Shanghai say they are being kept in the dark about when supplies will improve.

“Now we have no HPV vaccine and so far we haven’t been informed about when the next batch of vaccines will come,” said a female worker with the Zhoujiaqiao Community Health Care Center in Changning District.

The Jing’an Temple Community Health Care Center said it had only received 18 shots since March, but has about 500 people on the waiting list. It has received no new stock since the end of March.

And a worker at the Wujiaochang Town Community Health Care Center in Yangpu District said demand had soared after the vaccine was made available in the city in March, with up to 700 people on the waiting list.

But the center has only restocked three times since March — and received only 20-30 shots each time.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among Chinese women between 15 and 44. There are 130,000 new cases every year — more than 28 percent of the world total.


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