Heru Andriyanto, Novy Lumanauw, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has dropped the plan to allow citizens to pay for vaccination against Covid-19 instead of waiting in a long line for free jabs under the government program, an aide said on Friday.
The decision came four days after the World Health Organization said paid vaccination "could pose an ethical issue" since Indonesia is among the biggest beneficiaries of vaccine assistance from UN-approved global procurement program Covax.
"After taking public feedback and responses into consideration, the president firmly instructed that paid vaccination plan to be arranged by [state-run pharmaceutical company] Kimia Farma be cancelled," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said at the State Palace in Central Jakarta.
"We will continue distributing vaccines for free based on the previous presidential instruction," he said.
However, there is no change in concerted efforts by private companies to collect funds among themselves and procure vaccines for their employees, known as "gotong royong" [mutual works] program, Pramono said.
The government supported the initiative and even helped procure the vaccines as long as employers don't charge their workers for the shots.
Ann Lindstrand, coordinator of WHO's expanded program on immunization, said on Monday paid vaccination could hamper efforts to guarantee equal access to the vaccine.
"Of course to have the most possible impact it's important that every citizen has the equal possibility to get access and any payment could pose an ethical and access issue and particularly during a pandemic when we need the coverage and the vaccines to reach all of the most vulnerable," Lindstrand told a virtual news conference in response to a question from an Indonesian journalist.
"Apart from that, there are Covax doses that are delivered through the collaboration with the UNICEF body, WHO, etc. and of course they have access to vaccines that are for free, up to 20 percent of the population funded by the funders of the COVAX collaboration, which makes it absolutely not possible for taking payment in its course," she said.
Kimia Farma stated earlier paid vaccination won't take a share in government supplies, both from Covax assistance or state purchase. The program will use the vaccine produced by China's Sinopharm and bought separately by the company.
Nearly 16 million Indonesian citizens have been fully vaccinated and more than 56 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered since the campaign began in mid-January.