JAKARTA: Indonesia has suspended distribution of a batch of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to run tests for sterility and toxicity following the death of a 22-year-old man a day after immunisation, the health ministry said on Sunday (May 16).
The batch consists of 448,480 vaccine doses that arrived in the Southeast Asian nation last month - part of a delivery of more than 3.85 million doses from the COVAX Facility, backed by the World Health Organization.
Some of the doses have been distributed in the capital city Jakarta and the province of North Sulawesi, as well as given to the military, the ministry said in a statement.
A national committee in charge of monitoring effects of novel coronavirus vaccination launched an investigation earlier this month after a 22-year-old man in Jakarta died a day after receiving an AstraZeneca shot.
The man received his dose from the CTMAV547 batch, health ministry spokeswoman Siti Nadia Tarmizi told Reuters.
"This is a form of caution by the government to ensure the safety of this vaccine," she said in a statement, adding that distribution of other batches of AstraZeneca vaccines will not be affected.
The batch test could take at least two weeks, said the head of the vaccine monitoring committee, Hindra Irawan Satari.
"After it is proven that it is sterile and does not contain toxins, the use of the vaccine will be resumed. The fastest we can get the results will be in two weeks," he said.
AstraZeneca said it was aware of Indonesia's decision and would fully support the ongoing investigation.
It said in a statement: "The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine offers a high-level of protection against all severities of COVID-19 and is generally well tolerated, with these benefits continuing to far outweigh the risks."
Since the start of the pandemic early last year, Indonesia has recorded around 1.74 million cases of infection of the novel coronavirus that causes the potentially fatal COVID-19 respiratory disease. The country's death toll stands at 47,967.
The government has been pushing to accelerate its vaccination programme to control the spread of the virus. Official data showed that as of Saturday, nearly 9 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Indonesia's health minister said last month that the schedule for about 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine faced delays.
Health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a parliamentary hearing that Indonesia would receive 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via a bilateral deal in 2021, instead of the 50 million doses initially agreed.
The remaining 30 million doses were due to be shipped by the second quarter of 2022, he said.
Indonesia is also slated to receive 54 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in phases via the COVAX global-vaccine alliance scheme, though Budi said Indian export restrictions would delay shipments in April.