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Covid-19: Indonesia starts emergency use of Chinese Sinovac vaccine

Jakarta - President Joko Widodo receives first shot of vaccine, 181.5 million people to be vaccinated

A driver transports containers of Covid-19 vaccines at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Tangerang near Jakarta. — Reuters
A driver transports containers of Covid-19 vaccines at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Tangerang near Jakarta. — Reuters


Published: Wed 13 Jan 2021, 7:12 AM

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday 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.

Conditional use of the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccine is scheduled to be rolled out in the coming months with healthcare workers, civil servants and other at-risk populations prioritised first. It will be free for all Indonesian citizens.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Indonesia’s health minister, said the country needs to vaccinate 181.5 million people, or roughly 67 per cent of its population, to reach herd immunity. That means the two-shot vaccine would require almost 427 million doses, including the estimated 15 per cent wastage rate.

But distribution will not be easy in the vast archipelago where transportation and infrastructure are inadequate in places. Health officials have cited concerns about keeping the vaccine refrigerated at the required 36–46 degrees Fahrenheit 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 December 6 and locked it in cold storage surrounded by armed guards. Authorities began distributing the vaccines to key locations around the country while awaiting emergency use authorisation.

The vaccine was cleared for emergency use based on clinical trial data and after the country’s highest Islamic clerical body declared the vaccine holy and halal.

Indonesia’s vaccination programme is the first large-scale use of the Sinovac vaccine outside of China.

Indonesia has recorded more than 846,000 cases of the virus, including over 24,600 deaths.

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