President Jokowi gets Sinovac jab to officially launch Indonesia’s COVID-19 vaccination programme

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo received the first dose of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac on Wednesday (Jan 13), becoming the first person in the country to be vaccinated.  

Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, received the jab at the presidential palace in Jakarta in an event that was broadcast live on national television.

Among those present were some Cabinet members, who will also be inoculated on Wednesday.

President Joko Widodo on Jan 13, 2021, received the first shot of a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine after Indonesia approved it for emergency use. (Photo: Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP)

On Monday, Indonesia gave the Sinovac vaccine its first emergency use approval outside China, as interim data from a late-stage clinical trial conducted in the country showed its efficacy rate at 65.3 per cent. 

Sinovac’s CoronaVac works by using killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the virus. It requires two doses to be effective.

With Mr Widodo receiving the jab, the vaccination programme in Indonesia has officially kicked off.

An estimated total of 1.48 million health workers will be inoculated starting this week. More than 560,000 people are expected to be vaccinated in January, while the remaining 900,000 are scheduled to receive the jab in February.

A total of 17.4 million public officers in the high-risk category will be next in line.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said at the parliament that 21.5 million people in the elderly group will be vaccinated starting April using vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, followed by workers between 18 and 59 years old.

With more than 840,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 24,500 deaths, Indonesia is the worst-hit country in Southeast Asia.

The country has so far secured more than 300 million doses of vaccines, which includes at least 125.5 million doses from Sinovac, 50 million doses each from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, 54 million from COVAX and 30 million from Novavax.

The vaunted immunisation campaign aims to inoculate 181.5 million people out of its 260 million people, the first of whom will receive the CoronaVac vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech. Indonesia on Monday authorised the Chinese vaccine for emergency use, which has an efficacy rate of 65.3 per cent.

Officers offload a box of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine as it arrives at the cold room of Indonesia’s local health department in Palembang, South Sumatra province, Indonesia, on Jan 4, 2021. (Photo: Antara Foto/Nova Wahyudi/ via Reuters)

The president, who is known as Jokowi, will be given a CoronaVac shot on Wednesday morning, his office said, in a sign of the priority placed on immunisation in a country that has done far less than its Southeast Asian neighbours to track and contain the virus.

Minster of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin told parliament on Tuesday that nearly 1.5 million medical workers would be inoculated by February, followed by public servants and the general population within 15 months.

Armed police officers stand guard next to a truck containing Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine during its distribution in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia on Jan 5, 2021. (Photo: Antara Foto/FB Anggoro via Reuters)

Indonesia on Tuesday reported a daily record 302 coronavirus deaths, taking fatalities to 24,645. Its infections are at their peak, averaging more than 9,000 a day, with 846,765 total cases.

Budi said two-thirds of the 270 million population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

Olivia Herlinda, a researcher at the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives, said the government had not taken into account the vaccine efficacy and virus reproduction rate to justify its herd immunity focus.

Epidemiologist Masdalina Pane said that vaccines had to be accompanied by increased testing and tracing.

“There’s not one bullet,” she said.

Budi said Indonesia’s testing and tracing needed improving, adding there was an imbalance in testing resources across the archipelago.

An official checks on COVID-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech as they arrive at PT Bio Farma (Persero) in the first shipment to Indonesia in Bandung. (File photo: Reuters)

Indonesia will get another 122.5 million doses of CoronaVac by January 2022, with about 30 million doses by the end of the first quarter this year, according to Budi’s presentation.

It has secured nearly 330 million doses of vaccines, including from AstraZeneca and Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

By : Kiki Serigar – CNA

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