The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has secured a commitment of 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from United Kingdom-based pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca for delivery next year, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said from London on Wednesday.
Retno and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir led a state delegation on a two-day trip to London this week to meet with various stakeholders, including executives from AstraZeneca, who signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the Indonesian Health Ministry on the procurement of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Prior to their trip to the UK, Retno and Erick embarked on a similar mission to China in August to secure massive supplies of potential COVID-19 vaccines from several Chinese vaccine producers, including Sinovac and Sinopharm, setting up a future stockpile of nearly 300 million doses until the end of next year.
On the second leg of the August trip to the United Arab Emirates, 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.
“In the meeting with AstraZeneca, we mainly discussed in detail the vaccine supply commitment, apart from the bilateral commitments that we previously had with Sinovac and Sinopharm/G42,” Retno told reporters on Wednesday.
Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartanto previously said the government was going to make a 50 percent down payment for a potential vaccine from AstraZeneca by the end of this month in a deal that could be valued at US$500 million.
Retno said negotiating teams from Indonesia and AstraZeneca had struck a deal virtually for a vaccine candidate that used a non-replicating viral vector platform and was one of the world’s leading potential COVID-19 vaccine, currently in the final stage of human trials.
The vaccine, developed with the aid of Oxford University researchers, could provide early an analysis of data from their various large trials over the next two months, according to reports.
“Indonesia has submitted a request for a vaccine supply of 100 million [doses] for 2021. AstraZeneca has responded positively. The first delivery is expected to be made in the first half of 2021 and will be carried out gradually,” Retno said.
She also said AstraZeneca was “very interested” in establishing long-term strategic cooperation and collaboration with Indonesia.
Indonesia has emphasized the importance of the safety and efficacy of future vaccines, which the foreign minister said would be an important part of the nation’s collaboration with AstraZeneca.
The government is banking on the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines to put a stop to the viral outbreak in the country and has begun to stockpile potential vaccines despite any real assurances of their proven efficacy or potency.
The ministers' visit comes despite a decision by AstraZeneca last week to pause its global trials, including large late-stage trials, of its experimental coronavirus vaccine because of an unexplained illness in a study participant.
Indonesia has consistently recorded a high number of new COVID-19 cases since last month, with nearly 350,000 confirmed infections and more than 12,000 deaths as of Wednesday.
In addition to inking deals with AstraZeneca on Wednesday, Indonesia also signed an LOI with Imperial College London (ICL) and VacEquity Global Health (VGH) for future collaboration on research and development on a self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) vaccine platform, among other matters.
“Indonesia and ICL are still discussing the possibility of conducting a phase 3 clinical trial of the saRNA vaccine in Indonesia. The saRNA vaccine is important because it allows the development of modular or ‘pop-up’ manufacturing units that can ensure rapid access to the vaccine anywhere in the world,” Retno said.
The delegation also held meetings with several Indonesian researchers and students in the medical field, especially in developing diagnostics, therapeutics and COVID-19 vaccines.
They had a meeting with Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) CEO Richard Hatchett to follow up on due diligence for a deal with Bio Farma from last month.
According to Retno, CEPI expressed its appreciation for Indonesia’s commitment to collaborating with the foundation and reported that the due diligence process on Bio Farma had shown good results. Soon, the CEPI would be ready to work with the state-owned pharma company, she said.
“Indonesia also expressed its desire to become part of the CEPI Investors Council. The magnitude of Indonesia's contribution to CEPI will be discussed further,” Retno said.
During the two-day visit, Retno also held talks with British counterpart Dominic Raab to discuss efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation.
“The Foreign Secretary met Foreign Minister Retno to discuss international cooperation to find a vaccine for COVID-19, strengthening bilateral relations between the UK and Indonesia, tackling climate change, and the UK’s bid to become a dialogue partner with [ASEAN],” said a UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office spokesperson.
The UK is Indonesia’s fourth-largest trading partner from Europe after Germany, the Netherlands and Italy and is currently the largest European importer of timber. It is also the second-largest investment partner from the region after the Dutch.
She said Indonesia welcomed the interest of several UK investors in the renewable energy sector, which includes Aggreko, Nova Innovation and Orbital Marine Power.
The partners signed an MOU on research and innovation partnership in August and another on an action plan for antimicrobial resistance in June.
In the multilateral track, the two countries are committed to supporting the work of cooperation platforms such as the World Health Organization, the GAVI vaccine alliance and CEPI within the COVAX Facility, particularly with regard to equal access to safe and affordable vaccines.
“In terms of trade cooperation, I conveyed Indonesia's concern over Britain's plan to impose due diligence measures on several commodities, including palm oil, timber and timber products. This policy has the potential to become a nontariff barrier for Indonesian exports to the UK,” Retno said.
The minister added that the two sides should begin talks to agree on a “mutual recognition” of terms based on each country’s respective policies on supply chain sustainability.
Editor's note: The article was updated to include background for AstraZeneca’s recent decision to pause its global trials.