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Indonesia to produce Merck's HPV vaccines to combat cervical cancer

JAKARTA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Indonesia will produce drugmaker Merck & Co's vaccines for human papillomavirus (HPV), the chief of its state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma said on Tuesday, in a bid to combat HPV-linked cervical cancer in the country.

Cervical cancer is the fourth-most common cancer among women globally, with an estimated 604,000 new cases and 342,000 deaths in 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). About 90% of new cases and deaths worldwide occurred in low- and middle-income countries that year.

In Indonesia, the disease killed more than 36,000 people in 2021, the health ministry said, adding that the Bio Farma-Merck deal was meant to stem the number of cervical cancer cases in the country.

Honesti Basyir, chief of Bio Farma, said in a statement the company on Tuesday signed a technology transfer deal with Merck & Co, one of the world's main makers of HPV vaccines, to help produce the Merck shots in the country.

Indonesian authorities aim to give the shots to 1.4 million girls next year, the company said, adding it aimed to produce 2.8 million doses given the two-shot regime recommended to inoculate against HPV-linked cervical cancer.

Bio Farma did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the timeline of the production.

At the moment, two- or three-dose regimens are recommended, but the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization said evidence showed that one dose was as effective. (Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

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