May 10, 2019 11:21
Chinese women are flocking to Korea for vaccinations against human papilloma virus, which can lead to cervical cancer.
A staffer at a gynecology clinic in southwestern Seoul said some 30 or 40 Chinese women come every day to get the injections.
It is unclear how the sudden surge was triggered but is likely to have something to do with a social media fad.
Vaccines can offer up to 90 percent protection against transmission of the virus, and three injections are required within a six-month period at a cost of around W600,000, so the patients have to come back to Korea several times (US$1=W1,182).
The fad started last year. U.S. pharma giant Merck began selling HPV vaccines in China in April 2018, but demand was so high that prices skyrocketed and a lot of fake vaccines swamped the market, so Korea is seen as safer.
"Chinese patients said they fear getting the injections in China and do not trust drugs sold there," a clinic staffer said.
Ever enterprising, some clinics have joined hands with plastic surgeons, who are also in demand among Chinese women, to offer HPV vaccinations packaged with cosmetic procedures.
Won Young-seok at the Korea Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said ob-gyn clinics here have been suffering from poor revenues due to Korea's low birthrate, so they're all going after Chinese customers."
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