China makes a new vaccine for HPV, the world’s most common sexually transmitted disease

Fourteen years ago in 2006, the American pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. released Gardasil, the first vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), the world’s most common viral infection of the reproductive tract which often leads to cervical cancer. That medicine has since become one of the world’s best-selling vaccines.

Last week, China finally approved a domestically produced competitor to Gardasil. Its name is Cecolin, or 馨可宁 xīn kě níng, and as you would expect, its price is significantly lower in China. Cecolin was co-developed by drug maker Innovax (万泰沧海生物技术 wàn tài cāng hǎi shēngwù jìshù) and Xiamen University.

The drug’s release has led to excitement and pride, but also some concerns in China, as What’s on Weibo reports:

While Chinese media emphasize the fact that China is now the third country in the world, after US and UK, to succeed in producing its own HPV vaccine, one of the topics receiving the most attention on Chinese social media is the price of the Cecolin vaccine. Cecolin is currently priced at 329 yuan (US$47) per shot, which is considerably cheaper than the approximate $250 per dose of the Gardasil vaccine in the United States…

But there is also a lot of discussion on the quality of the vaccine, and whether the bivalent vaccine is effective enough (for clarity — the two HPV types the vaccine protects against causes 84.5 percent of all cervical cancers in China). Some Weibo users say they would still like to get the more expensive nonavalent vaccine instead — even if they will need to spend around 4000 yuan ($570) on their completed shots. Other commenters are most concerned with the general availability of HPV vaccines in China, as there is still a shortage of vaccinations.