Indonesians eye vaccine for turnaround

2021-01-13 12:05:23

  An analyst of Global Halal Center works using a biosafety cabinet at a laboratorium, where the Sinovac's vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was analyzed for Halal certification, in Bogor, Indonesia, Jan 6, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] Political leaders among first to get shots from China to encourage others to follow Jakarta doctor Lie Hermanto is looking forward to getting a shot of a Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine this week. Hermanto has been registered to receive the vaccine ahead of the launch on Wednesday of Indonesia's mass inoculation drive. He will get the first of the two doses required of the vaccine made by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech. The Chinese vaccine is welcome in Indonesia as countries compete to acquire COVID-19 vaccines, Hermanto said. Indonesian President Joko Widodo and those Cabinet members aged from 18 to 59 years are to get the first shots in the expectation that people from other priority groups will follow suit. President Widodo was set to get his first dose on Wednesday. The arrival of the Sinovac vaccine last month, with 1.2 million and 1.8 million doses in two shipments, has become a hot topic in Indonesia. A total of 15 million doses of raw materials of COVID-19 vaccine from Sinovac arrived at Indonesia's Soekarno-Hatta Airport on Tuesday, the National Disaster Management Agency said. All these raw materials will be brought to the office of the state vaccine manufacturing company Bio Farma in West Java for processing into ready-to-use doses of vaccine. Many have expressed cautious optimism over the effectiveness of the vaccine and the nation's COVID-19 immunization program. The immunization priority groups include medical doctors and other healthcare workers, COVID-19 case tracing workers, and members of the military and the police forces as well as religious leaders. Indonesia's food and drug authority BPOM on Monday approved emergency use of the Sinovac's vaccine. At a news conference, BPOM chief Penny Lukito said that the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinovac, which had been tested in the phase 3 trials at Padjadjaran University, met the safety standards set by the World Health Organization. Despite the optimism surrounding the vaccination drive, some have voiced concerns over how distribution will be managed, in particular for getting the vaccine to remote villages. But government officials said they did not envisage any serious problems. Vaccination for those in the priority groups is scheduled to last until next month. On Thursday, an official at the Ministry of Health's information center expressed optimism that the distribution to all the country's 34 provinces would go smoothly. Awaiting shipments She said that on the first day of distribution from the headquarters of state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Bio Farma in Bandung, West Java, 14 provinces were reached. The country had more than 828,000 confirmed cases with over 24,100 deaths by Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization. Medical doctor A. Aurensia Waso, from East Nusa Tenggara Province, said on Saturday that many are keenly awaiting the shipments. However, businessman Dedy Rochimat has expressed concerns. "I am especially concerned with medium and small-scale businesses which require their workers to carry out face-to-face tasks," said Rochimat, who is chairman of Jakarta-based PT Vivere Grup Tbk. Indonesia is also seeking to buy other vaccines in addition to Sinovac's. The country needs at least 426 million doses of vaccines to immunize 180 million of its 270 million people in order to achieve herd immunity. Still, some analysts fear that vaccinations might lead people into complacency and result in their neglecting safeguards such as face masks. President Widodo has repeatedly reminded the nation that vaccinations will only succeed if people maintain social distancing. Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story. The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.