Indonesia’s COVID-19 vaccine campaign lags rampaging pandemic

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo received the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine reside on tv final month, however regardless of the fanfare, his bold inoculation campaign is already dealing with glitches from refrigeration, mistrust and disinformation.

Meanwhile, infections and deaths are rising sooner than ever. Even if the vaccination programme goes easily, will probably be months earlier than the overall inhabitants begins to be inoculated, well being specialists say.

“Disaster,” mentioned Pandu Riono, a University of Indonesia epidemiologist when requested what he expects of the approaching months.

“Healthcare will have already collapsed. Already there are many stories about people dying on arrival, in emergency and on the way because they are searching for a hospital. Even the graveyards are running out of space.”

READ: Jakarta expands graveyards as COVID-19 death toll mounts

Budi Gunadi Sadikin, the brand new well being minister, instructed well being ministry officers of his considerations concerning the vaccination rollout quickly after his appointment in late December, a supply conversant in the programme mentioned.

The well being ministry declined to touch upon the report.

Asked about claims the pandemic is spreading sooner than vaccines might be administered, COVID-19 job power spokesman Wiku Adisasmito mentioned the federal government was doing its finest with out there sources, and moderately than concentrate on “negative predictions” it was working arduous to implement “comprehensive health protocols, vaccines and clinical care at the same time”.

Separately, the well being ministry has known as for testing and speak to tracing to be elevated.

Indonesian healthcare workers wait as they are being observed after receiving Sinovac's vaccin

FILE PHOTO: Indonesian healthcare employees wait as they’re being noticed after receiving Sinovac’s vaccine for coronavirus illness (COVID-19) in Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, January 28, 2021 on this photograph taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Andreas Fitri Atmoko/through REUTERS

In its first section, Indonesia plans to vaccinate round 1.5 million healthcare employees by Feb 21, a aim the well being ministry says is on observe.

Jokowi, because the president is understood, has mentioned he hopes 181 million folks can be vaccinated within the subsequent 12 months, or about 1 million per day for a two-dose vaccine.

READ: COVID-19 – Hurdles ahead for Indonesia as it aims to vaccinate 180 million people in 15 months

Indonesia is presently vaccinating about 50,000 folks per day, in accordance with the well being ministry.

The logistics and chilly chain necessities within the sprawling archipelago of 270 million folks, strung throughout greater than 17,000 tropical islands, uniquely complicate the rollout.


From the capital Jakarta, vaccines can be despatched out to greater than 10,000 well being centres throughout the nation, some in distant areas with restricted sources, that means even retaining the vaccines cool will show a problem.

“Just imagine you have a fridge full of vaccines and the power goes out,” mentioned Ines Atmosukarto, a molecular biologist who works on vaccine growth. “All those doses will have to go in the bin.”

In locations equivalent to Bengkulu, on Sumatra island, some well being centres don’t have any chilly storage or secure electrical energy, mentioned Herwan Antoni, head of the native well being company.

A medical worker prepares a dose of the Sinovac's vaccine before giving it to a healthcare wor

FILE PHOTO: A medical employee prepares a dose of the Sinovac’s vaccine earlier than giving it to a healthcare employee on the emergency hospital for the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) sufferers within the Athlete Village in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Indonesia is ill-prepared for the mammoth job with a reliance on industrial or family fridges as a substitute of medical fridges, one former senior authorities official mentioned.

“The wastage or spoilage ratio will be incredibly high,” he mentioned.

Senior well being ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi denied shortfalls within the nation’s chilly chain, saying it met WHO necessities after securing medical fridges, a few of which had been photo voltaic powered.

The ministry, she added, has additionally enlisted Unilever Indonesia, which is offering greater than 200 ice cream fridges for vaccines.

READ: Indonesia posts first annual economic contraction since 1998 amid COVID-19 pandemic

“Getting it is not a problem,” mentioned Diah Saminarsih, senior advisor for the WHO director common in Geneva.“Distributing it is a potential problem.”

The first section was all the time going to be the best, say well being specialists, given there’s good information of healthcare employees and most are keen recipients.

A medical worker receives her second dose of vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a ho

FILE PHOTO: A medical employee receives her second dose of vaccine for coronavirus illness (COVID-19) at a hospital in Sidoarjo, East Java province, Indonesia, January 29, 2021 on this photograph taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Umarul Faruq/through REUTERS

But there are early indicators that distrust might be a stumbling bloc.

In Gowa, in South Sulawesi province, as much as 200 medical employees delayed their photographs, some believing it had harmful uncomfortable side effects or was haram – forbidden for Muslims, or as a result of they’d co-morbidities, mentioned Gaffar, a senior official there who makes use of one title.

In Papua, some medical employees rejected vaccines in worry of a “global antichrist conspiracy”, mentioned Ni Nyoman Sri Antari, the top of the well being workplace within the provincial capital Jayapura.

Commentary: Indonesia’s questionable decision on vaccinating only those aged 18 to 59

The well being ministry mentioned these figures had been inaccurate and most healthcare employees had re-registered.

But a December 2019 survey by Indonesian pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting confirmed solely 37 per cent of 1,202 respondents had been keen to be vaccinated, 40 per cent undecided and 17 per cent would refuse.


Public well being specialists say the glitches are much more cause to double down on the fundamentals of testing, tracing and isolating.

“They need to go back to good old-fashioned public health measures,” mentioned Ines, the molecular biologist. “It is not as sexy … we like to think there is a magic solution in the form of a pill or a jab.”

Indonesian healthcare workers are seen during verification and health screening before receiving Si

Indonesian healthcare employees are seen throughout verification and well being screening earlier than receiving Sinovac’s vaccine for the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) at a hospital in Bandung

Even because the inoculations start, the pandemic is worsening.

Cases have surpassed a million with the speed of individuals examined discovered to be COVID-19 optimistic hitting 35 per cent lately – one of many world’s highest and an indicator that infections are way more widespread.

Epidemiologists say there could also be over 3 million, with a dying toll nicely above the 31,000 recorded.

READ: Indonesia deploys COVID-19 breath test detectors at train stations

Indonesia has secured almost 330 million vaccine doses from China’s Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Novavax, however presently has solely round 3 million prepared to make use of doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac.

Novavax and AstraZeneca vaccines are slated to reach within the second quarter – though AstraZeneca has confronted delays within the EU – whereas 25 million doses can be produced in Indonesia from Sinovac bulk supplies earlier than the tip of March.

Dicky Budiman, a pandemic researcher at Australia’s Griffith University, mentioned it might take two, presumably three years, to finish the programme, moderately than the bold January 2022 goal.

“Vaccines can’t lead this effort,” he said, “The pace of the vaccine can’t match the pace of the virus transmission.”

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