Indonesia: President Takes Dubious Chinese Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate on Live TV

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 10: Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison give a joint statement at Parliament House on February 10, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. Indonesian President Joko Widodo is on a two-day visit to Canberra, his fourth visit to Australia. (Photo by Rick Rycroft - …
Rick Rycroft - Pool/Getty Images

Indonesian President Joko Widodo received his first dose of CoronaVac, a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidate, on live TV this week.

The Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech developed CoronaVac. Various countries outside China have contracted with Sinovac to use CoronaVac in their national coronavirus vaccination campaigns, including Indonesia. 

President Joko Widodo — or “Jokowi,” as he is popularly known — became the first person in Indonesia to receive CoronaVac on Tuesday. A government health official administered Jokowi’s first dose at the presidential palace in Jakarta. The vaccination was broadcast live on national television to launch Indonesia’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, which is expected to be the largest in Southeast Asia and one of the largest in the world.

“This COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccination is important for us to break the chain of this coronavirus transmission and provide health, safety, and protection for all Indonesians,” Widodo said after the event, according to Channel News Asia (CNA).

Indonesia’s mass coronavirus vaccination campaign would also help to boost the country’s economy, he added.

A number of presidential cabinet members who attended Jokowi’s vaccination event on Tuesday “will also be inoculated on Wednesday [January 13],” according to CNA.

“On Monday, Indonesia gave the Sinovac vaccine its first emergency use approval outside China, as interim data from a late-stage clinical trial conducted in the country showed its efficacy rate at 65.3 percent,” CNA reported on January 12. Brazilian scientists partnered with Sinovac said on January 12 that final data showed CoronaVac was 50.38 percent effective against the Chinese coronavirus in their final stage clinical trials, despite previously claiming on January 7 that the vaccine candidate’s efficacy rate was 78 percent. Sinovac’s CoronaVac requires two doses to be effective. It works by using killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the Chinese coronavirus.

Indonesia’s health ministry has said it expects to administer CoronaVac to “[n]early 1.5 million medical workers … by February, followed by public servants and the general population within 15 months.”

An estimated 1.48 million health workers in Indonesia will receive CoronaVac starting this week, CNA reported on Tuesday. Roughly 17.4 million Indonesian public officers in the “high-risk” health category will be the next demographic to receive CoronaVac after health workers.

“More than 560,000 people are expected to be vaccinated in January, while the remaining 900,000 are scheduled to receive the jab in February,” according to the Singapore-based news agency.

An estimated “21.5 million people in the elderly group will be vaccinated starting April using vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, followed by workers between 18 and 59 years old,” Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in the country’s parliament on January 12.

Budi said January 3 that Indonesia “needs to vaccinate 181.5 million people, or roughly 67 percent of its population, to reach herd immunity, and requires almost 427 million doses of vaccines, assuming a double-dose regimen and a 15 percent wastage rate.”

Indonesia officially documented 858,043 cases and 24,951 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus at press time on Wednesday, making it the worst-hit country by the virus in Southeast Asia.

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