Indonesia’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have breached half a million as the Government of the world’s fourth most populous nation scrambles to procure vaccines to help it win the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
- Indonesia has signed a deal with Chinese company Sinovac, with stage 3 trials ongoing in Indonesia
- The Government will prioritise vaccinating the elderly and public servants, with some 204 million Indonesians expected to pay for the vaccine
- Australia has recently ramped up its vaccine diplomacy in South-East Asia, pledging $500 million to eradicate COVID-19
Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 4,442 to bring the country’s total to 502,110, the most in South-East Asia and second in Asia only to India’s 9.1 million confirmed cases.
It also reported a total of 16,002 deaths from the coronavirus.
President Joko Widodo said at a Cabinet meeting that his administration is preparing mass vaccinations.
He urged his ministers to ensure the safe and smooth distribution of vaccines across the vast archipelagic nation, home to more than 270 million people.
The Government is making all-out efforts to secure vaccines through bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
Mr Widodo’s administration has faced criticism for being seen to prioritise economic growth over public health during the pandemic.
Nevertheless, Indonesia’s economy, the largest in South-East Asia, has fallen into recession for the first time since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago.
More than 200 million Indonesians will have to pay for vaccination
The Government has yet to decide which COVID-19 vaccine to use.
“I’m not saying which brand just yet, but as long as it is on the World Health Organization list, we are going to use it,” Mr Widodo said when he visited a health centre in West Java’s Bogor city last week.
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Indonesia is already cooperating with China’s Sinovac in phase 3 clinical trials of its vaccine candidate, with tests being carried out on 1,620 volunteers in West Java’s Bandung city since August.
The Government also looked into partnerships with two other Chinese drug manufacturers, Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics.
Penny Lukito, head of the Food and Drug Control Agency, estimated the Sinovac vaccine would obtain emergency use authorisation from the agency by the third or fourth week of January, after the agency evaluates interim results from the third stage clinical trial.
The State-Owned Enterprises Ministry said Indonesia aims to vaccinate 107 million people between the ages of 18 and 59, or about 67 per cent of the population in the age group, by the end of next year.
Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto has said the Government will wait to vaccinate older people until research and clinical trials show that a vaccine is safe for them.
The Government aims to fund the vaccinations for more than 32 million people, including the poor, health workers, the military and police, civil servants and teachers.
The other 204 million will need to buy the vaccines by themselves from state-owned companies such as Bio Farma.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi previously said that Indonesia has secured a commitment to receive 20 million to 30 million doses of the potential vaccine by the end of this year.
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Drug maker CSL has been producing an Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which researchers this week said has shown to be 90 per cent effective in late-stage clinical trials.
In August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had discussed the vaccine with Mr Widodo and flagged that Australia might also roll out a vaccine to South-East Asian countries interested in receiving it.
The Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Government could use the facilities of biotech giant CSL to manufacture the vaccine both for Australia and the region.
“CSL has its production facilities for vaccines in Melbourne and whichever company brings a vaccine to market, will need additional production facilities around the world,” he said.