The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has secured a supply of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in the ballpark of 300 million doses until the end of next year, the government has said, following ministerial visits to China and the United Arab Emirates last week.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recently instructed Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir to meet with Chinese and Emirati officials to follow up on crucial vaccine cooperation as well as other economic partnerships.
Speaking at the presidential palace on Monday after reporting the results of their four-day trip abroad, Retno said the outcome of the visit had exceeded initial expectations, especially with regard to vaccine procurement.
Indonesia has secured a commitment to be sent 20-30 million doses of the potential vaccine by the end of this year, some 80-130 million doses in first quarter of next year and 210 million doses for the remainder of 2021, she said.
“Therefore, if we talk about numbers, we have secured 290 million to 340 million for 2021,” she told reporters in a virtual briefing on Monday.
The first of the deals were secured when the two ministers visited China’s resort city Sanya on Hainan Island on Thursday, while the rest were negotiated with UAE officials in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
In Sanya, Retno and Erick oversaw two deals between state-owned pharmaceuticals firm Bio Farma and China’s Sinovac Biotech that would give Indonesia the equivalent of 50 million doses of the potential vaccine from November to March and priority access for the rest of 2021.
It will be supplied in the form of vaccine bulk, an aqueous form of the purified antigens, or vaccine, provided in a large container from which individual vials are filled.
Indonesia is already cooperating with Sinovac in the phase three clinical trial of the vaccine candidate, with tests being carried out on 1,620 volunteers in Bandung, West Java, since earlier this month.
The government has also looked into partnerships with two other Chinese drug manufacturers, Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics.
On the second leg of the trip to Abu Dhabi, the ministers oversaw deals struck between two state drugmakers, Kimia Farma and Indofarma, and Group 42 (G42) Health Care, an artificial intelligence-based Emirati company that is actively involved in the research, development and distribution of COVID-19 testing and treatment applications.
G42 signed an agreement with Kimia Farma to develop vaccines and another with Indofarma to develop test kits using laser technology and AI to detect the virus.
“We think this [laser and AI] technology will be able to help with quicker tracing, and of course, support safe economic activity,” Retno said.
For the deal with Kimia Farma, G42 agrees in principle to cooperate on a wide scope of products including drugs, health services, research and development as well as clinical trials and production, marketing and the distribution of vaccines.
Details of the agreement remain under wraps, but Indonesia has sought to be part of the Sinopharm-G42 cooperation, having sent a team of reviewers to closely monitor the implementation of phase III clinical trials of a vaccine candidate they had codeveloped.
Sinopharm and G42 began phase III trials of the vaccine candidate in Abu Dhabi in mid-July, involving up to 15,000 volunteers.
The Chinese drugmaker previously said its vaccine candidate may cost no more than 1,000 yuan (US$144.27) for two injections once it completed trials and began mass production, Reuters reported.
The UAE is becoming Indonesia’s most important partner in the Middle East during this pandemic, having set up a priority travel corridor for essential businesses in order to facilitate greater economic cooperation.
The only other nations with such an arrangement are China and South Korea.
Retno said the President had instructed her and the SOE minister to go to the UAE after receiving a congratulatory phone call from its de facto leader, Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayhan, on Indonesia’s Independence Day.
“In the telephone conversation, the President, among other things, said he would send Pak Erick and me to Abu Dhabi to follow up on all cooperation in amid this pandemic,” Retno said from Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
During their visit, the ministers had meetings with Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nayhan and Energy and Infrastructure Minister Suhail Al Mazroui, for updates on some of the existing projects the two had countries agreed on after Jokowi’s visit to Abu Dhabi in January.
Among the deals is a collaboration between state-owned oil and gas companies Pertamina and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as well as a project in Subang, West Java, with Elite Agro – the UAE’s leading agricultural company.
Retno also announced that the groundbreaking for a high-profile 145 megawatt floating solar power plant project in Cirata Reservoir in West Java was scheduled for June next year with the aim of beginning operations in the second half of 2022.
“We also conveyed to the Emirati Foreign Minister that Indonesia is currently exploring cooperation to distribute Indonesian pharmaceutical products to the Middle East and Africa,” she said.
In late April, as a sign of solidarity, the UAE sent 20 tons of medical equipment to Indonesia and purchased nearly 30 tons of dried and fresh food products from archipelago’s micro, small and medium enterprises.
There was no mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the Indonesian delegation’s trip to Abu Dhabi, despite the UAE’s recent announcement that it would normalize ties with Israel. As a staunch supporter of Palestine and a major critic of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, Jakarta has yet to establish ties with Tel Aviv.
“In this current position, the government must maintain good relations with the UAE by not making any comments [on the conflict] and instead put an emphasis on positive economic cooperation,” said Yon Machmudi, a Middle East expert from the University of Indonesia.
He said it was a consequence of practicing foreign policy from a heavily economic perspective.
Going forward, Yon said the UAE would act as a business hub for countries that still held reservations against the Jewish state.