Indonesia to launch vaccination drive as COVID-19 deaths hit record

Stanley Widianto
·2-min read
Officers offload a box of Sinovac's vaccine for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as it arrives at the cold room of Indonesia's local health department in Palembang

By Stanley Widianto

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia starts a mass coronavirus vaccination campaign on Wednesday, with President Joko Widodo to receive the first shot of an ambitious drive launched amid record deaths from one of Asia's most stubborn epidemics.

The vaunted immunisation campaign aims to inoculate 181.5 million people, the first of whom will receive the CoronaVac vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech, which Indonesia authorised for emergency use on Monday, with an efficacy rate of 65.3%.

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.

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.

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.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)