Indonesia aiming for COVID-19 immunization in Dec end

Over the past few months, the Indonesian government has been proactive in procuring COVID-19 vaccines from various sources as it believes that when the people are healthy, the economy will also be sound.

During a limited cabinet meeting to discuss the plan for procurement and implementation of immunization at the Merdeka Palace, Jakarta, on October 26, 2020, President Joko Widodo called on his rank and file to not delay the completion of the timeline for vaccination by being heedful of several supporting factors.

He ordered officials to immediately formulate a region-wise vaccination plan and map out individuals who need to be vaccinated, including those who will be vaccinated for free and those who will pay for it.

"Everything must be planned and prepared in detail," the President emphasized.

The head of state also called for training and simulations, both for health workers and security personnel, and even volunteers who would later be involved in administering vaccines.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, disclosed that the COVID-19 vaccination program would likely start in the third week of December, 2020.

The initial vaccination program will target about nine million people, including healthcare workers and law enforcement officials, in Jakarta and Bali, among others.

"We are keen to see Bali become a green zone [with low risk of COVID-19 transmission], which is our target. We are optimistic of Bali becoming a green zone at the start of next year, as we will commence vaccinations in the third week of December," Pandjaitan remarked.

While the vaccination plan is under way, the Task Force for COVID-19 Response said it has ensured the country’s stocks of COVID-19 medications are sufficient and will last till December this year.

"To anticipate the demand for medicines until December, 2020, the government has continued the provision of COVID-19 medicines," spokesperson for the task force, Wiku Adisasmito, said.

At the same time, the task force is continuing to work towards improving public discipline in the implementation of health protocols.

In the meantime, in order to ensure the availability of vaccines for Indonesians, the government has secured partnerships for vaccine procurement with several countries, including China. The collaboration with China involves three vaccine producers — Sinovac, Sinopharm, and CanSino.

Indonesia has also established vaccine partnerships with the United Arab Emirates' G42 and UK's AstraZeneca.

The government is also supporting research efforts towards developing the country's own COVID-19 vaccine, Merah Putih (Red and White), named after the colors of the national flag.

The Finance Ministry plans to inject Rp2 trillion in funds to state-owned pharmaceutical holding company PT Bio Farma this year for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, director general of state wealth at the Finance Ministry, Isa Rachmatawarta, said at an online discussion recently.

The government will delegate authority to Bio Farma to distribute the funds — released in the form of state capital participation for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and the development of health infrastructure and facilities -- to other state-owned pharmaceutical companies, PT Kimia Farma Tbk and PT Indofarma Tbk. Currently Bio Farma, in collaboration with the University of Pandjajaran, is conducting the third phase clinical trials for China's Sinovac vaccine in Bandung, West Java.

There have been no major red flags so far in the third phase clinical trial of the Sinovac vaccine, said Kusnadi Rusmil, head of the COVID-19 clinical trial research team.

"I think until now the security can still be accounted for," he said, adding that Phase 3 of the clinical trial is not being carried out in a hurry.

The clinical trial is being carried out in a multi-center manner, as trials for the vaccine are being carried out in several countries, including Brazil and Turkey, he said. The Indonesian government will compare the results of the Sinovac vaccine clinical trial in Bandung, with those carried out in other countries, he added.

Drawing from his own experience in clinical studies of vaccines, he said the clinical trial of the Sinovac vaccine has so far demonstrated its safety. In the meantime, the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) has offered its services to assist in the countrywide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines if stocks become available before the vaccination program.

About 230 blood transfusion units of the PMI across Indonesia have been prepared to function as vaccination centers, while thousands of PMI volunteers have been readied to assist in the vaccine distribution process, PMI chairman Jusuf Kalla said.

The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) had earlier lauded the government’s efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccine supplies and demanded that it ensure the availability of safe and effective vaccines for the planned immunization program.

In its letter to the Health Ministry, IDI’s central executive board praised the government for prioritizing the vaccination program for medical workers.

However, IDI chairman Daeng M Faqih, who signed the letter, highlighted the importance of ensuring that the safety, effectiveness, and immunogenicity of the COVID-19 vaccines is established before they are administered to Indonesians.

President Joko Widodo has instructed that the vaccination program not be conducted in a hurry, he said, adding that the required vaccines could be vetted through the published results of their Phase 3 clinical trials.

Faqih further revealed how other countries have also exercised caution when it comes to COVID-19 immunization by waiting for more published data on the results of Phase 3 clinical trials.

This reality shows that the vaccination program must not be conducted in a hurry, he said.

To carry out vaccinations, the Indonesian government will also have to obtain Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval from the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM). (INE)

Source: Antara News

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