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Indonesia’s main drug regulator on Monday approved Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, and President Joko Widodo is expected to kick off the country’s vaccination campaign later this week by publicly injecting the vaccine developed by the Chinese drug maker on national television.
The approval followed Friday’s announcement by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s highest Islamic body, that it had deemed Sinovac’s vaccine “holy and halal,” or acceptable under Islam, a step crucial to gaining trust in the world’s largest Muslim nation.
Indonesia has been one of the countries in Asia hardest hit by the pandemic, recording nearly 900,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 25,000 deaths. Now the country is grappling with a record spate of COVID-19 infections, reporting more than 10,000 new cases a day this week for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
By starting its ambitious vaccination campaign on Wednesday 180 million people Over the next 15 months, Indonesia will join a host of countries around the world in rolling out jabs that could help end the devastating pandemic. But the effort to vaccinate the fourth most populous country in the world will stand out, not just because the doses of Sinovac have achieved the “halal” label. Indonesia is also unique in that its vaccination campaign will challenge the global trend of targeting the elderly first..
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In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says one of the main goals of its vaccine deployment is to “reduce death and serious illness as much as possible.” Therefore, the CDC recommends vaccinating nursing home populations and facility workers first, as they are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, before distributing the vaccines to people aged 75 and over and other workers. frontline. UK is also injecting older people first in order to to avoid as many deaths as possible.
In Indonesia, people aged 60 or older account for 40% of COVID-19 deaths in the country, compared to 36% for people aged 46 to 59, in mid-december. But in mid-December, Indonesia announced that its vaccination plan would prioritize frontline medical workers and other essential workers and put elderly populations at the bottom of the line. Indonesian Minister of Health told Bloomberg that its immunization plan would target non-elderly populations first because there was insufficient data on vaccine safety in elderly populations.
Indonesian officials say this strategy will help limit the spread of COVID-19 more quickly, as younger populations are more inclined to socialize. There is also some evidence this suggests that young people are spreading COVID-19 at a higher rate than their older peers. Experts have warned that inoculating younger people first may help slow the spread of the virus, but that may not reduce deaths from COVID-19 among the country’s elderly.
Nicholas Thomas, professor of health governance at Hong Kong City University, says the economy is likely a motive for the strategy as well.
“The decision to target the working-age population is indicative of the Indonesian government’s urgent need to restart its economy,” Thomas said. “National poverty and food insecurity are expected to increase by double digits this year. to get the country back to work faster, the government is trying to mitigate these negative trends. ”
In 2020, the Indonesian economy entered recession for the first time in two decades, declining by 5.3% and 3.5% in the second and third quarters respectively. Overall, the economy is expected to contract by projected 1-2% in 2020.
Indonesian authorities said they approved Sinovac’s vaccine on Monday after reviewing clinical data from phase III trials in Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil.
Brazilian authorities last week said the Sinovac vaccine was 78% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, but has not publicly disclosed any data to back up its claims.
Indonesia has so far been the most honest in implementing a more youth-focused immunization strategy, but it may not be the only country to do so.
China, for example, would have launched a campaign in December to vaccinate 50 million people before the start of the Chinese New Year in February, and local government reports indicate that China is currently only inoculating working-age groups.
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