The Jakarta Post
The first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech has arrived in Indonesia, but the government still has to wait for emergency use authorization before starting the vaccination program, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has said.
A total of 1.2 million doses of the vaccine are now stored in a warehouse of state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Bio Farma in Bandung, West Java, having landed at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Sunday evening.
It remains unclear when the government will roll out the vaccine for public use as the government is still waiting for the emergency approval from the Indonesian Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM), while also ramping up the infrastructure required.
“We are very grateful, Alhamdulillah, the vaccine is available, which means that we can immediately prevent the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, but in order to start vaccination, there are still some steps [needed] from the BPOM,” Jokowi said on Sunday evening.
The government is expecting another arrival of 1.8 million doses of the ready-to-administer Sinovac vaccine early next month. Indonesia also expects to receive 15 million doses of bulk vaccines, an aqueous form of the purified antigens, this year and 30 million doses more next year, according to Jokowi.
The bulk vaccines will be used by state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Bio Farma to manufacture ready-to-use vaccines.
In total, Indonesia has ordered around 143 million doses from Sinovac in various forms, from the ready-to-administer doses to the bulk vaccines.
The Sinovac vaccine is one of several COVID-19 candidate vaccines in final-stage testing globally. Sinovac has said it is confident about the safety of the potential vaccine, which has been tested in several countries including in Indonesia since August.
An interim report comprising evidence of efficacy, immunogenicity and safety will be delivered to the BPOM in early January to obtain emergency use authorization.
Prior to the vaccine’s arrival, the BPOM said it would not authorize the emergency use of a Sinovac candidate vaccine in December because of a lack of data on its effectiveness, rebuking the government's target to have the approval this month. BPOM head Penny Kusumastuti Lukito estimated that approval could come in the third or fourth week of January 2021.
Jokowi said that all steps must be taken properly in order to ensure public health, safety and vaccine effectiveness.
“Scientific considerations, clinical trial results will determine when vaccination can begin,” he added.
The President also said it was also important to prepare a vaccine distribution system to all regions in Indonesia, as well as supporting equipment, human resources and vaccination management.
“We know that we have made some preparations since a few months ago through simulations in several provinces, so everything has to be ready when we start a vaccination program,” he said.
Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said the government would prioritize health workers for the vaccines that had just arrived in Indonesia.