The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made assurances that his administration would not use the planned procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for any political and economic interests.
“There is absolutely no politics. Nor are there any economic interests,” the President said during a special interview with Kompas TV on Monday.
"I don't want what’s happened in Brazil, where vaccination has been halted because of some problem," Jokowi added.
Public concerns over the possible politicization of vaccine development and distribution emerged following a separate statement made by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in late October that rejected the use of the potential vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech.
While embroiled in a political spat with São Paulo Governor Joao Doria who publicly backed the clinical trials of the Chinese-made vaccine, Bolsonaro suspended the trials, saying that "the Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig”, reported AFP.
Meanwhile, Indonesia is conducting late-stage trials of the Sinovac vaccine on 1,620 volunteers in collaboration with state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma in Bandung, West Java. Political experts have urged the government to avoid battling over the pros and cons of COVID-19 vaccination as in Brazil and prioritize public health instead.
Political observer Pangi Syarwi Chaniago told local media earlier that the government must focus on vaccine production, pointing out that the Sinovac vaccine’s successful completion of domestic clinical trials would only increase public trust in the government.
Jokowi also said in the Kompas TV interview that the Sinovac clinical trials in Indonesia were on schedule. Moreover, the government had secured vaccine supplies from Sinovac, Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics, all Chinese companies, with the first shipment scheduled for November.
The President added that the government would distribute the vaccine to inoculate select groups of people as soon as the vaccines received “emergency use authorization” from the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM), which would take three to four weeks.
The government plans to carry out its mass vaccination program late this year or early next year.
“So, when the vaccine arrives in November [...] it must go through the [approval] stage at the BPOM,” said Jokowi, underlining that the stages of the approval process “must be taken with care, as they involve humans”.
The groups designated for priority vaccination include health workers, members of the Indonesian Military and the National Police, public servants and civil servants, including teachers, according to the President. The immunization program would target those aged 18 to 59 years in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), he added.
“We have a list of these people,” the President said. “Next week, Insya Allah [God willing], we will start the [immunization] simulation,” he added.
Jokowi said the government had not modeled its COVID-19 response on any country, as all countries were equally unprepared for the pandemic. “There is no single country that we can take as the best model. If I may say, no country was prepared [for the pandemic], including large and developed countries,” he said.
He said the government was conducting weekly evaluations to continuously adjust its COVID-19 response to the latest developments. (syk)
Editor’s note: This article is part of a public campaign by the COVID-19 task force to raise people’s awareness about the pandemic.