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A production issue has caused Merck to distribute less HPV vaccines.

Merck: Production Problems Have Led To Reduced Distribution of HPV Vaccines

According to Merck, an American multinational pharmaceutical company currently producing the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, there will be fewer doses delivered this year as a result of some production problems it faced.

The pharmaceutical company disclosed this to The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Gavi, an international organisation that assists low—and middle-income nations in providing life-saving vaccines.

Merck had previously promised to supply 29.6 million doses of the HPV shot to various Gavi-supported African countries. However, the corporation disclosed to UNICEF and Gavi, who procured the vaccine, that it would only supply 18.8 million doses.

The drug company’s decision will affect around 1.5 million teenage girls in Africa who, as a result, will lose their chance to avoid cervical cancer in the near future.

The vaccine is currently the only vaccine against cancer and offers almost complete protection against HPV infection.

Merck spokesman Patrick Ryan said the company “experienced a manufacturing disruption” requiring it to manually hold and check numerous doses.

“We are acting with urgency and rigour to deploy additional personnel and resources to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” Mr Ryan said.

He disclosed that some African countries, including Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso, will not get the HPV vaccine this year. Burundi and Tajikistan in Asia, who were supposed to receive supplies at the end of the year to start their multi-age and routine vaccinations, will also be postponed.

Gavi’s chief program officer, Aurélia Nguyen, revealed that “HPV is the highest-impact vaccine Gavi has. If you vaccinate 1,000 girls, you prevent 17.4 future deaths,” she said, adding that “if there is one vaccine that you want to get out and do well on, this is it.”

Merck’s decision is a big setback for these low-income countries that had already waited years to begin vaccinating girls against HPV, which has claimed a lot of women’s lives over the years.

Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organization, about 350,000 women die from cervical cancer annually, and around 90 per cent of these women are in low-income countries, where regular illness screening is uncommon.

The HPV vaccine is more effective with girls who are still virgins and based on that, WHO recommends the vaccine be given to girls who are up to the age of 14 years.