Indonesian President Joko Widodo yesterday received the first shot of a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine, after Indonesia approved it for emergency use and began efforts to vaccine millions of people in the world’s fourth-most populated country.
After Widodo, top military, police and medical officials were vaccinated, as well as the secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the clerical body that last week ruled that the vaccine was halal and could be taken by Muslims.
Others, such as a healthcare worker, businesspeople and a social media influencer, also received the shots to encourage people to get the vaccine when it is available to them.
“We need to do the vaccination to stop the chain spread of COVID-19, and give health protection to us and safety to all Indonesian people. It will also help accelerate economic improvement,” Widodo said.
“This vaccine is the instrument we can use to protect us... The vaccine is the instrument to protect our family, our neighbor, Indonesian people and the human civilization,” Indonesian Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.
“This vaccine is given to achieve herd immunity. All 70 percent of the world’s people must be vaccinated for that to be achieved. The participation of all Indonesians will greatly determine the success of this program,” he said.
Conditional use of the Sinovac vaccine is scheduled to be rolled out in the coming months with healthcare workers, civil servants and other at-risk populations prioritized. It would be free for all Indonesians.
To vaccinate two-thirds of the country’s population, 181.5 million people, Sadikin said that Indonesia would require almost 427 million doses of the two-shot vaccine, including 15 percent of doses that are estimated to be wasted.
Distribution would not be easy in the vast archipelago where transportation and infrastructure are in some places limited. Indonesian health officials have cited concerns about keeping the vaccine refrigerated at about 2oC to 8oC required to maintain its safety and effectiveness.
“We know that the cold-chain distribution is not complete. This is the obstacle,” Sadikin said on Tuesday. “The cold-chain facilities are not enough, so we are still distributing some of the vaccines. We are worried.”
Indonesia received its first shipment of the Sinovac vaccines on Dec. 6 last year and began distributing the doses throughout the country while awaiting emergency use authorization. The vaccine was cleared for emergency use based on clinical trial data, and after the council declared the vaccine holy and halal.
Indonesia’s vaccination program is the first large-scale use of the Sinovac vaccine outside of China.
The Southeast Asian country has recorded more than 858,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including more than 24,900 deaths.
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