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Indonesian pharma firms to be allowed to import COVID-19 vaccines directly, says health minister

Indonesian pharma firms to be allowed to import COVID-19 vaccines directly, says health minister

FILE PHOTO: Indonesia's Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin shows AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine as part of a mass vaccination program for Nahdlatul Ulama's clerics in Surabaya, Indonesia, March 23, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Moch Asim/via REUTERS

JAKARTA: Private pharmaceutical companies in Indonesia will be permitted to directly import COVID-19 vaccines to "balance the market", the country's health minister told parliament on Tuesday (Dec 14).

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin made the announcement during an update on the country's vaccine program. The government was forced to rescind a private vaccine programme earlier this year following widespread public outcry over vaccine inequity.

"Vaccines that have permits from the World Health Organisation, Indonesia’s Drug and Food Agency (BPOM) and technical advisory group (ITAGI) can be imported by registered drug and pharmaceutical companies," he said.

Allowing pharmaceutical companies to sell directly to the public would provide "balance in the market and (give) society more choices", he said, adding that prices would be capped by the ministry.

Almost 50 per cent of the targeted population have received two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 70 per cent receiving one. Indonesia had aimed to inoculate 208 million out of its population of 270 million by January 2022. It now aims to achieve this target in March-April 2022, according to local media.

Vaccines for those aged between 6-11 are being rolled out starting Tuesday, with China's Sinovac vaccine the most widely used in the Southeast Asian nation.

Acknowledging the financial burden of vaccines on the budget, the health minister confirmed that booster shots for the public would be made available from next January.

Honesti Basyir, head of Indonesia’s state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma, told the same parliamentary hearing the country would need 300 million vaccine doses in 2022, including 68.6 million doses for children, and 231.4 million for boosters.

Since grappling with one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks globally on the back of a devastating second wave this July, case numbers have plummeted in the Southeast Asian nation in recent months.

In the past week, Indonesia has averaged about 200 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths a day, down from a peak of more 56,000 cases on July 15. Overall, Indonesia has officially recorded more than 4.2 million coronavirus cases and 143,000 deaths.

Source: Reuters

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