The price of the nonavalent Gardasil 9 vaccine, which prevents most genital human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers, has almost doubled in Hong Kong in recent days, after the vaccine's producer U.S.-based Merck halted the supply to the region for an unspecified period.
Industry insiders said that the suspension was aimed at ensuring a stable supply to the Chinese mainland market, as regulators in South China's Hainan Province announced on Friday that they had completed price negotiations for the vaccine, the first of its type to be introduced to the mainland.
"The market price for a single shot ... is now HK$2,000 ($254.79) to HK$3,000, and the three-dose vaccination costs about HK$8,000-9,000 now," Nicole Lu, associate wealth management director of AIA International (Hong Kong), told the Global Times on Sunday.
The insurance company now offers medical consulting and reservation service for mainland women traveling to Hong Kong for the vaccination, which has been in short supply in the Chinese mainland.
Lu attributed the soaring price to Merck's suspension of exports to Hong Kong.
"Several months ago, the market price was only around HK$4,500 for the three-dose HPV vaccination," she said, noting a surge in the number of mainlanders residents who had visited Hong Kong for the vaccination recently.
A number of Hong Kong-based medical groups including MJ Life and Health HK issued statements over the weekend saying that they had been informed by Merck that the company had stopped providing the vaccine to Hong Kong from Friday.
It is not clear when shipments will resume.
Merck did not respond to an interview request of the Global Times as of press time.
A saleswoman at Guangzhou-based Nuoyou Travel Agency, which provides services for women seeking the vaccine in Hong Kong, said on Sunday that patients had better make a reservation as soon as possible because the vaccine will run out of stock soon.
"The three shots now cost HK$87,00, and HK$2,400 must be paid in advance as a deposit," she told the Global Times on Sunday.
On Friday, the Hainan authorities announced that they had completed review and price negotiations for importing the vaccine, and the price is 1,298 yuan per dose.
Industry insiders said the vaccine could arrive in the mainland in June.
"Once the vaccine is available in the mainland, the imbalance between supply and demand will be ameliorated, and the price in Hong Kong market will gradually drop back to normal," an industry insider told the Securities Times over the weekend.