Indonesia to ink Pfizer, AstraZeneca vaccine deals as awaits Sinovac clearance

Stanley Widianto and Yuddy Cahya Budiman
·3-min read

By Stanley Widianto and Yuddy Cahya Budiman

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia is poised to secure coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the health minister said on Tuesday, as it awaits authorisation to begin its inoculation programme with a third drug, by China's Sinovac.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin said a 50-million-dose deal with AstraZeneca would be finalised before the end of the year, and one of the same size with Pfizer in the first week of January.

The first shots for both those drugs, which have gained regulatory approval in many western countries, are not scheduled to arrive for months, the minister told his first news conference.

So Indonesia plans to start vaccinations with the Sinovac treatment, of which it secured 1.2 million doses this month and expects 1.8 million more in January, once it gains emergency use clearance.

Interim results from its phase III trial are expected to be delivered to Indonesia's Food and Drug Agency next month.

Budi said the country's 1.3 million front-line health workers would get priority in the first wave of vaccinations between January and April. "They are the most important group of people in our battle against the pandemic," he told a news conference.

The world's fourth most populous country has had over 727,000 confirmed COVID cases and 21,700 deaths, among Asia's highest tallies.

Public servants will be next in line for shots, with those in infection "red-zones" aged between 18 and 59 prioritised in a second round of vaccinations.

Indonesia is focusing its programme on that age range rather than the elderly in an effort to safeguard the working population.

Bambang Heriyanto, corporate secretary of state-owned drugmaker Bio Farma, said that strategy would allow Indonesia to reach herd immunity.

Including Tuesday's announcement, Indonesia has secured 329 million vaccine doses, including about 125 million from Sinovac, 50 million from Novavax and 54 million from global vaccine programme COVAX.

The AstraZeneca vaccines are expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2021 and Pfizer's in the third quarter, according to a slide presentation by Budi.

The companies were not immediately available for comment.

IS IT SAFE? IS IT HALAL?

The vaccine deals met with mixed reactions on the streets of the capital Jakarta on Tuesday. "There's lots of diseases with no cure, but there's already (a) cure for COVID," said 25-year-old radio announcer Cindy Lauw, "I'm just wary."

Suhaimi, a 55-year-old retiree, said he would await trial results, and news about whether the vaccine was permitted under Islam.

A December survey by Indonesian pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting showed 37% of 1,202 respondents were willing to be vaccinated, while 40% would consider it and 17% would refuse.

While acknowledging the essential role of vaccinations, epidemiologist Pandu Riono warned against over-reliance on them.

"Vaccines are the second step in prevention, the first is behaviour and surveillance, testing, contact tracing and isolation," he said.

(Additional reporting by Angie Teo; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel and John Stonestreet)