Indonesia leader gets nation’s first coronavirus jab

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo received the country’s first COVID-19 jab yesterday, as the sprawling archipelago of nearly 270 million kicked off a mass vaccination drive to clamp down on soaring case rates.

The 59-year-old leader, better known as Jokowi, was inoculated on live television at the state palace in Jakarta along with his Health Minister and several senior officials, as well as business and religious leaders.

“I do not feel it at all,” he said with a laugh after receiving a dose of the Chinese-developed CoronaVac, the first of two required.

“This vaccination is important to break the chain of coronavirus infections and to give health protection to us, and safety and security for all Indonesians,” Jokowi told reporters, adding that it would “also help speed up the economic recovery”.

Domestic regulators this week approved the CoronaVac shot, produced by Sinovac, announcing that its efficacy stood at 65.3 per cent, according to tests performed in Indonesia.

In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, President Joko Widodo, left, receives a shot of COVID-19 vaccine at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Widodo on Wednesday received the first shot of a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine after Indonesia approved it for emergency use and began efforts to vaccine millions of people in the world’s fourth most populated country. Writings on the banner in the background read “Safe and Halal.” AP

Tests done in hard-hit Brazil showed the Sinovac jab was highly effective in staving off moderate to serious virus cases. But overall, it was only about 50 per cent effective in preventing patients from contracting the disease.

While the vaccine reached the minimum efficacy target of 50 per cent set by the World Health Organization, it is well behind the shots developed by Moderna at 94 per cent and Pfizer-BioNTech at 95 per cent.

This week, Indonesia’s top religious body also approved the vaccine as Halal – meaning permissible under Islam – in a move that could help convince wary citizens.

Previous vaccination drives met resistance among some segments of the country’s huge population, the world’s fourth-largest.