Indonesia’s mass vaccinations to begin on January 13

JAKARTA (CNA) – Indonesia will begin its nationwide COVID-19 mass vaccination programme on January 13, the country’s health minister said yesterday, as the world’s fourth most populous country battles the worst coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia.

The programme will launch in Jakarta, with President Joko Widodo set to be given the first shot, Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in a statement, while vaccinations in other regions will start in the following two days.

The government has previously said 1.3 million frontline workers are due to be among the first to receive the vaccines made by China’s Sinovac Biotech. Indonesia has received three million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, named CoronaVac .

After health workers had been inoculated, regional governors should come forward to be given the vaccine “to generate confidence in the community,” said Budi.

The announcement comes before the country’s food and drug agency (BPOM) has given emergency use approval to allow inoculations to start.

BPOM did not respond to a request for comment, though the agency has previously said it hoped emergency use authorisation would be granted once interim data from clinical trials in Indonesia, Brazil and Turkey was studied. Sinovac, along with Indonesia’s state-owned drugmaker Bio Farma, is overseeing late-stage clinical trials in the province of West Java.

Early results from CoronaVac late-stage trials showed it was 91.25 per cent effective, while researchers in Brazil have said it was more than 50 per cent effective, though full results were yet to be released at the company’s request.

Health Minister Budi said previously that Indonesia must inoculate 181.5 million people, or roughly 67 per cent of the population, to reach herd immunity.

An experimental coronavirus vaccine waits to be loaded onto an Indonesian plane at the Beijing International Airport, in Beijing, China. PHOTO: AP