Young people first: Indonesia’s immunization strategy heavily criticized

Since the launch of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine in December 2020, many countries have put in place a vaccination strategy in order to be able to quickly stop the coronavirus pandemic. The authorization of new vaccines, like that of AstraZeneca, should also make it possible to increase the rate and to vaccinate a greater number of people.

Following the example of what is done in many countries, Belgium has divided the vaccination campaign into several stages and has chosen to vaccinate as a priority residents of nursing homes as well as caregivers. If all goes according to plan and there is no delay in vaccine delivery, 70% of the population could be vaccinated by the end of the summer.

In Indonesia, the vaccination strategy is very different: instead of vaccinating the elderly after the frontline workers, young workers aged 18 to 59 will take priority.

According to Professor Amin Soebandrio, who advises the local government on its vaccination strategy, it makes sense to prioritize workers and those “who go out of the house and everywhere and who, at night, go home to their families. “. Asked by BBC Indonesia, he said the government was targeting “those who are likely to spread the virus”. The goal is, of course, to achieve collective immunity as quickly as possible.

Experts divided

Yet this strategy divides experts. Already in November, the World Health Organization recommended vaccinating “first” those over 60 years old. The idea was to “maximize the impact of available vaccines in order to limit severe morbidity and mortality ” first, then move to younger age categories second.

One of the arguments put forward by the Indonesian government is that vaccinating the working population will reduce the risk of contamination within the household, often involving several generations. Unfortunately, there is no evidence yet that vaccines prevent transmission of the virus. This is what Dominique Le Guludec, the president of the Haute Autorité de santé, reminds our colleagues at Franceinfo: “We do not know at all today if the vaccine prevents transmission of the virus. So you are going to vaccinate them and if that is the case they will always be transmitters. So there is no point. We must vaccinate those who are the target , those to whom they can give it and who have a risk of severe form “.

For Nicholas Thomas, professor of health management at City University of Hong Kong interviewed on this subject by Fortune magazine, the economy is probably a reason for this strategy. “Decision to target the working-age population is indicative of the Indonesian government’s urgent need to revive its economy“, did he declare. “National poverty and food insecurity are both expected to jump double digits this year. By getting the country back to work faster, the government is trying to mitigate these negative trends“.

Indonesia is the country most affected by the virus in Southeast Asia with 836,718 confirmed cases and 24,343 deaths. The vaccination campaign was launched on Wednesday. As elsewhere, the hopes of the population are based on the effectiveness of vaccination in order to be able, little by little, to resume a normal life.

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