China’s HPV Vaccine Concerns Continue

Merck Gardasil HPV vaccine is available in Hong Kong China
young chinese sisters
Asia (Vax Before Travel)

Hong Kong Customs and the Department of Health (DH) raided a medical center in Kwun Tong on July 10, 2019, and discovered 76 boxes of suspected counterfeit Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Gardasil vaccines. 

The Kwun Tong medical center’s 49-year-old male director and a 33-year-old male staff member were arrested. 

Kwun Tong is Hong Kong’s newest business district, situated at the eastern part of the Kowloon Peninsula. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

The Hong Kong DH is urging members of the public who have ‘felt unwell after receiving the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine to seek advice from healthcare professionals.’ 

The Head of the Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau of the Customs and Excise Department, Mr. Kwan Kin-keung, and the Chief Pharmacist of the DH, Mr. Lot Chan, said at a press conference on July 12, 2019, ‘that Customs and the DH will continue to step up enforcement to combat counterfeit vaccines.’ 

‘Customs reminds consumers to select reputable medical centers with care and verify with the trademark owners (Merck) or their authorized agents if the authenticity of a vaccine is in doubt.’ 

‘Customs also reminds medical centers to be cautious and prudent in merchandising of vaccines since the possession of counterfeit goods for any trade or business is a serious crime and offenders are liable to criminal sanctions. In addition, registered healthcare professionals should only procure registered pharmaceutical products from licensed wholesale dealers.’ 

Merck previously said it will distribute 5.51 billion Chinese yuan (US$790 million) worth of the Gardasil HPV vaccines products to China in 2019 and 8.33 billion yuan (US$1.20 billion) in 2020, according to disclosures from Merck’s China distribution partner, Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products. 

Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, any person who sells or possesses for sale any goods with a forged trademark commits an offense. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years. 

This counterfeit situation may be related to increased consumer demand in China for Gardasil HPV vaccines.

On June 15, 2018, a shortage of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in China led thousands of women to seek treatment in neighboring countries, such as Hong Kong, causing price increases and vaccine shortages. 

And, during October 2018, the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health announced starting with the 2019/20 school year, eligible female primary school students of suitable ages will be provided with HPV vaccine under the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme (HKCIP).   

In the USA, there does not appear to be a Gardasil 9 vaccine shortage.   

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the HPV vaccine is not listed as ‘Delay or Shortage.’

HPV news

HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, says the CDC.   

There are 2 categories of HPVs -- low-risk HPVs, which do not cause cancer, and high-risk HPVs, which can cause cancer. This HPV causes genital warts and several types of HPV cancers, including cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus.

HPV vaccines can be found in most authorized pharmacies and physician offices in the USA. To schedule a vaccination counseling appointment, please visit this page.

As of July 1, 2019, the CDC updated its private sector vaccine prices for general information. And, the CDC’s Vaccines For Children program offers vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay.

Additional financial support programs can be found at Vaccine Discounts. 

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report vaccine side effects to the CDC.