Heru Andriyanto, Dina Manafe, Jakarta – Indonesia began the campaign for mass vaccination against coronavirus on Thursday, a day after President Joko Widodo and a number of prominent people took the shot of Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine to symbolically launch the program.
The move came amid spiraling numbers of newly cases and deaths, which set new records a day earlier.
Indonesia recorded 11,278 new cases on Wednesday to take its total to 858,043. The previous high was 10,617 cases reported last week.
A further 306 coronavirus-related deaths were recorded in the same day to set a new record for the highest daily death toll for the second day in a row.
The virus has killed 24,951 people in Indonesia since first cases were confirmed on March 2.
Southeast Asia's biggest country is currently enduring the darkest period of the outbreak. It has recorded 144,845 cases and 2,813 deaths in the first 13 days of the year.
Deputy Health Minister Dante Saksono Harbuwono said the first round of mass vaccination targets 1.46 million medical workers and estimated the process will be completed by the end of February.
"Medical workers are at the highest risk of being infected by the virus," he said, adding that many other countries also prioritize this group.
Other priority groups like the elderly and public service workers will receive the vaccine in March and April.
However, Covid-19 survivors and pregnant mothers are excluded from the state-sponsored vaccination campaign, Dante said.
He argued that those who have caught Covid-19 will naturally develop immune system after recovering.
"Yes it's possible their antibody will weaken overtime but our priority is people who have never been infected so that they can develop immune system," Dante said.
Mass vaccination for medical workers kicked off at Jakarta's Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, which has around 6,000 employees.
The hospital plans to vaccinate 265 medical workers at a time until all employees receive the shot.
No vaccine for Jakarta governor
In Jakarta, home to 25 percent of overall coronavirus cases in the country, around 60,000 medical workers will be vaccinated in the first round of the campaign. The capital city has approximately 131,000 medical workers.
The Jakarta Health Department has confirmed that Governor Anies Baswedan and his deputy Ahmad Riza Patria will not get the vaccine as both men recently recovered from the highly contagious disease.
"The governor and the deputy governor have earlier tested positive for Covid-19 so they are exempt from our program," Health Department Head Widyastuti said.
Jakarta broke its own record for the highest number of new infections in a single day with 3,476 cases on Wednesday, 17.5 percent higher than the previous record reported five days earlier.
There have been a total of 214,728 cases and 3,595 deaths in Jakarta since the start of the outbreak.
West Java is at a distant second with 102,340 cases amid a dramatic surge in newly cases that has started since late November.
Central Java overtook East Java to rank third with a total of 95,562 cases, but the province has the second-highest death toll, totaling 4,255 Covid deaths as of Wednesday.
East Java has recorded 95,064 cases and 6,647 deaths. The country's four most populous provinces make up 59 percent of the overall cases.
Coronavirus cases are rising fast in other hotspots in the sprawling archipelago, including South Sulawesi, East Kalimantan, Yogyakarta, Banten and Bali.
South Sulawesi reported its highest single-day rise of 648 for a total of 38,414 cases.
East Kalimantan saw its daily count top 500 for the second time since the outbreak, bringing the total number of cases to 31,583.
The resort island of Bali passed 20,000 cases after reporting a further 268 cases on Wednesday. Bali has beaten its own record for the highest daily rise three times since the start of the month.
Yogyakarta in southern Java has added 3,646 cases in the last 13 days, taking its total to 15,801. To put into perspective, Yogyakarta had a total of only 5,963 cases in the end of November.
Banten in the western tip of Java is also enduring a dramatic surge in newly cases with an average of 240 cases this month.