Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, began its ambitious vaccination campaign against covid-19 this Wednesday that aims to reach 181.5 million Indonesians in 2022 and that will have to face important challenges in this vast archipelago made up of about 17,000 islands.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo was the first to receive the dose of the CoronaVac vaccine, produced by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, after answering a series of routine questions from the doctor, in an event broadcast live from the Presidential Palace in Jakarta.
“At 9:42 (2:42 GMT) the great effort to free us from this pandemic began with me,” said the president, who weeks ago applied to receive the first vaccine in order to demonstrate the trust placed in the drug.
The Indonesian Agency for Drug Control was the first country to authorize the Sinovac vaccine on Monday, which estimated its effectiveness at 65.3%.
Brazil, which this Sunday will decide whether to authorize the emergency use of the Sinovac vaccine, estimated the effectiveness of the vaccine at 50.4% – slightly exceeding the minimum of 50% set by the World Health Organization – during the test in the country, while Turkey estimated the effectiveness at 91.25%.
THE COMPLEX DISTRIBUTION IN A COUNTRY WITH 17,000 ISLANDS
Indonesian authorities have already started distributing 3 million doses received to date of the Sinovac vaccine among the 34 provinces of the archipelago.
Although with a vast territory made up of more than 17,000 islands (6,000 of them inhabited), the country faces important challenges to reach all corners of its territory.
The Health Minister, Budi Gunadi, acknowledged the day before before Parliament that distribution in some provinces still cannot be ensured “because the storage capacity of the cold chain is not enough.”
Even so, throughout January the target is to vaccinate 566,000 health workers, whom they prioritize for being on the front line of battle against the virus, and in February another 900,000 people from the same sector.
During this first phase, the drug will also be inoculated to 17.4 million public workers between 18 and 59 years old.
THE ELDERLY POPULATION WILL HAVE TO WAIT
After the inoculation of the president today, other ministers and prominent members of the authorities received their doses, except for the vice president, Ma’ruf Amin, 77 years old.
Indonesia, unlike other countries, has opted for a more conservative approach and hopes to collect more data on the effectiveness of the Sinovac drug in people over 59 years of age before giving it to this at-risk population.
Vaccination of the elderly “is placed in phase two because clinical trials of the current Sinovac vaccine only reached up to 59 years,” argued the Health Minister on Tuesday.
The health authorities value the use of Pfizer and AstraZeneca drugs as of April among the 21.5 million people over 59 years of age, although they have yet to be approved by the Agency for the Control of Medicines (BPOM).
SUITABLE FOR MUSLIMS
Among those vaccinated during this opening day, the general secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Amirsyah Tambunan, a key authority in the country with the largest number of Muslims in the world, also received his dose.
“The Council of Ulemas declared the vaccine halal (suitable for Muslims) and allows its use,” President Widodo remarked on social networks on Wednesday, after the MUI certified the use of the vaccine yesterday and yesterday issued its corresponding fatwa.
“After passing the halal certification and the clinical trials conducted by BPOM, we can ensure that the Sinovac vaccine is halal and safe to use,” said Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Zainut Tauhid Sa’adi, during the delivery of the certified this Wednesday, collects the Indonesian public agency Antara.
REACHING HERD IMMUNITY
Indonesia aims to complete the inoculation of two-thirds of its population, 181.5 million people, by March 2022, to achieve herd immunity.
The country expects to receive most of the vaccines, which will be free, throughout the second half of the year and has signed agreements to purchase a total of almost 330 million vaccines.
Currently, Indonesia, the Southeast Asian country most affected by covid-19, registers a sharp increase in the number of daily confirmed cases with the virus and has already accumulated more than 840,000 patients since the beginning of the pandemic, including some 24,500 deaths.