Indonesian President Joko Widodo received the first shot of a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday after the government authorized it for emergency use and began efforts to vaccinate millions of people across the vast archipelago in one of the world’s most populous countries.
Indonesia’s vaccination program is the first large-scale use outside of China of the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccine. It poses massive challenges in a country whose thousands of islands stretch across an area about as wide as the continental United States and where transportation and infrastructure are limited in many places. Health officials have also noted it will be difficult to keep the vaccine at the required 36–46 degrees Fahrenheit (about 2-8 degrees Celsius) to maintain its safety and effectiveness.
After President Widodo, top military, police and medical officials also received shots, as did the secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the clerical body that last week ruled the vaccine was halal, or acceptable for use under Islamic law.
A health care worker, businesspeople and a social media influencer also got the vaccine to encourage others to follow suit once it is available to them. Officials have said they will prioritize health care workers, civil servants and other at-risk populations, and the two-dose vaccine will be free for all Indonesian citizens.
“We need to do the vaccination to stop the chain spread of Covid-19 and give health protection to us and the safety to all Indonesian people. It will also help accelerate economic improvement,” Widodo said.
While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been greeted with much fanfare in the West, its relatively high price and requirement for ultra-cold storage mean that other shots, like Chinese, Russian and the AstraZeneca vaccines, are more likely to be distributed to much of the developing world, even as experts have said more data needs to be shared about the Chinese and Russian products.Indonesia plans to vaccinate two-thirds of its population of about 270 million people — or just over 180 million people. That means it needs about 427 million shots, given the estimate that 15 percent may be wasted, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said. SOVEREIGNPH