Indonesia to ink Pfizer, AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine deals as it awaits Sinovac clearance

Indonesia to ink Pfizer, AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine deals as it awaits Sinovac clearance

A healthcare worker holds a bottle of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine
A healthcare worker holds a bottle of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec 28, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Johanna Geron)

JAKARTA:  Indonesia is poised to secure coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the health minister said on Tuesday (Dec 29), as it awaits authorisation to begin its inoculation programme with a third drug, by China's Sinovac.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin said a 50 million dose deal with AstraZeneca would be finalised before the end of the year, and one of the same size with Pfizer in the first week of January.

The first shots for both those drugs, which have gained regulatory approval in many western countries, are not scheduled to arrive for months, the minister told his first news conference.

Indonesia plans to start vaccinations with the Sinovac treatment, of which it secured 1.2 million doses this month and expects 1.8 million more in January, once it gains emergency use clearance.

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Interim results from its phase III trial are expected to be delivered to Indonesia's Food and Drug Agency next month.

Budi said the country's 1.3 million front-line health workers would get priority in the first wave of vaccinations between January and April. 

"They are the most important group of people in our battle against the pandemic," he told a news conference.

The world's fourth most populous country has had more than 727,000 confirmed COVID cases and 21,700 deaths, among Asia's highest tallies.

Public servants will be next in line for shots, with those in infection "red-zones" aged between 18 and 59 prioritised in a second round of vaccinations.

Indonesia is focusing its programme on that age range rather than the elderly in an effort to safeguard the working population.

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Bambang Heriyanto, corporate secretary of state-owned drugmaker Bio Farma, said the strategy would allow Indonesia to reach herd immunity.

"If herd immunity is reached, anyone below 18 and above 59 can hopefully be protected too," he said.

Including Tuesday's announcement, Indonesia has secured 329 million vaccine doses, including about 125 million from Sinovac, 50 million from Novavax and 54 million from global vaccine programme COVAX.

The AstraZeneca vaccines are expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2021 and Pfizer's in the third quarter, according to a slide presentation by Budi.

The companies were not immediately available for comment.

IS IT SAFE? IS IT HALAL?

The vaccine deals met with mixed reactions on the streets of the capital Jakarta on Tuesday.

"There's lots of diseases with no cure, but there's already (a) cure for COVID," said 25-year-old radio announcer Cindy Lauw, "I'm just wary."

Suhaimi, a 55-year-old retiree, said he would await trial results, and news about whether the vaccine was permitted under Islam.

A December survey by Indonesian pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting showed 37 per cent of 1,202 respondents were willing to be vaccinated, while 40 per cent would consider it and 17 per cent would refuse.

While acknowledging the essential role of vaccinations, epidemiologist Pandu Riono warned against overreliance on them.

"Vaccines are the second step in prevention, the first is behaviour and surveillance, testing, contact tracing and isolation," he said.

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Source: Reuters/mi

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