Jakarta – Indonesia plans a nationwide seroprevalence survey over the next two weeks to determine whether that substantial portion of its population already has immunity against Covid-19, either artificially through vaccines, Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Monday.
The most populous nation in Southeast Asia now has the lowest daily new cases in the region when measured relative to population. Indonesia's figure stayed below 2 percent of its peak in July, while neighbors like Thailand and Singapore struggled with a spiking number of new cases. That was despite the fact that Indonesia had a lower level of people fully vaccinated against the disease compared to the two neighbors.
One of the explanations was that many people already have immunity either artificially through vaccines or naturally because they recover from illness, Budi said.
And to prove or disprove that hypothesis, the health ministry will soon launch a seroprevalence survey or community antibody prevalence for 21,880 samples from 34 provinces and 100 districts/cities across Indonesia.
"The results of this survey are expected to be completed in mid-December," Budi said.
"It would offer a complete picture of the immune condition of all our people in 34 provinces and become the basis for the policies' formulations going forward," the minister said.
He said that his party planned a seroprevalence survey or community antibody prevalence survey conducted every six months. The government will carry out the study in collaboration with the Public Health Department at the University of Indonesia and the World Health Organization.
The goal is that the results can later be shared with the world and show Indonesia's readiness to anticipate the pandemic's handling and its transition to become endemic.
Indonesia reported 620 new cases and 65 deaths on Monday, far below their peaks in July when new cases and deaths exceeded 56,000 and 1,800 a day, respectively. So far, more than 4.2 million Indonesian have had Covid-19 or about 1.6 percent of the country's 270 million population.
Last March, a similar survey in Jakarta found out that 44.5 percent of the capital population had Covid-19 antibody, seven times higher than what the official record of Covid-19 patients showed. That suggested that many might have asymptomatic Covid-19 and stayed undetected by the officials.
On the other hand, the government has vaccinated more than 100 million people 12 years old or above with at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. In addition, about 57,6 million people have been fully vaccinated, or about a fifth of the targeted population.
Singapore now records about 555 new daily cases per million people in Southeast Asia, compared to Indonesia's 4.3 new cases per million people, the lowest in the region. Still, the city-state had administered 164 doses of vaccine per 100 people compared to Indonesia's 57 doses per 100 people.