Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Jakarta – Indonesia is aiming to start administering coronavirus vaccines in early November by relying on supply from Chinese drugmakers, as the world's fourth most populous country fights a health crisis that may result in its first recession in more than two decades.
The Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs on Monday (Oct 12) said 100,000 doses will be supplied by CanSino Biologics, the first Chinese company to test a Covid-19 vaccine on humans, in November.
Sinovac Biotech, a China-based company, will be supplying three million doses by December. The firm has been working with Indonesia's state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma since April on a Covid-19 vaccine.
Another five million doses will come, starting November, from a partnership between Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm and the United Arab Emirates technology company G42.
The three vaccines, which are undergoing third and final phase clinical trials, received emergency use authorisation from China, the ministry said in a statement.
"Health workers, paramedics, public officials, military and police officers, teaching staff at all levels will be the first to receive the vaccines," Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto added in the statement.
Indonesia started training health officials at community clinics to administer Covid-19 vaccines from late September. Dr Terawan said the vaccines would be available for sale later but would remain free for low-income groups.
The statement follows a trip to Kunming, China, last week by high-ranking officials from Indonesia. The delegation included Dr Terawan, the head of the country's food and drug agency, Dr Penny K. Lukito; Bio Pharma president director Honesti Basyir; and Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs.
Mr Luhut, who was appointed by President Joko Widodo in September to lead the Covid-19 fight in Indonesia, held a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The visit saw China and Indonesia announce agreements to work on Covid-19 vaccine research, production and distribution. On Saturday, Mr Luhut quoted Mr Wang as describing Indonesia as having the strongest capacity for vaccine production in South-east Asia.
Bio Farma, which produces polio and BCG vaccines, primarily used against tuberculosis, will start Covid-19 vaccine production in November.
The Sinovac-Bio Pharma vaccine is based on an inactivated whole virus, a mature vaccine technology that has also been used to produce vaccines against influenza and polio.
In contrast, many pharmaceutical companies are working on next-generation platforms that involve using the DNA or RNA of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
If the ongoing trial is successful, Bio Farma plans to ramp up production to its maximum capacity of 250 million doses a year.