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Jakarta Post

Experts praise govt for making COVID-19 vaccines free for all

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, December 18, 2020   /   05:33 pm
Experts praise govt for making COVID-19 vaccines free for all A medical worker at a community health center in Tapos, Depok, West Java, conducts a COVID-19 vaccination simulation on Oct. 21. Depok is expected to be among the regions with the earliest access to the vaccine because of its high risk of COVID-19 transmission. (JP/P.J. Leo)

Numerous experts have expressed appreciation for the government’s decision to make COVID-19 vaccines free of charge for all in a move announced by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Wednesday.

Sulfikar Amir, an expert in sociology of disaster at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), gave a nod to Jokowi’s decision.

“I appreciate Pak Jokowi for making such an important and crucial decision as part of the efforts to handle the pandemic in Indonesia, which has been on for months,” Sulfikar, the initiator of Petisi Vaksin COVID-19 Gratis (Petition for free COVID-19 vaccine), said in a talk show aired by Kompas TV on Thursday, as reported by tribunnews.com.

He went on to say that he, however, deplored the discourse surrounding the issue. 

“To even [consider] a private vaccination program is not only unethical, but also inappropriate,” said Sulfikar.

“If the government is serious in pursuing vaccination as the main solution to our situation, the idea to roll a private vaccination [program] would backfire, as it may hinder the effectiveness and efficiency of the upcoming [national] vaccination drive,” he added.

Read also: Indonesia to redirect stimulus funds toward mass vaccination

Separately, Aceh’s public policy expert Nasrul Zaman said each person in the country had the right to receive the vaccine for free.

“We cannot limit people’s access to the vaccine, since COVID-19 targets every individual without exception,” Nasrul said as quoted by antaranews.com on Thursday. 

He added that the Aceh governor had stated his willingness to first get the vaccine to assure the public that it was safe to use. 

Nasrul said he hoped that a vaccine would get the Indonesian Ulema Council’s (MUI) halal certification prior to being distributed in Aceh.

Jokowi on Wednesday said the vaccine would be available at no cost, following widespread criticism of government plans to fund the inoculation of only a third of the population targeted to receive the vaccine.

“After receiving much input from the public and recalculating the financial state of the country, I would like to inform you that COVID-19 vaccines for the people will be free. Once again, it will be free of charge,” said the President.

Read also: BPOM to extend monitoring stage of Sinovac vaccine trial for next three months

Jokowi also stated that he would be the first Indonesian who would receive the vaccine shot. All Cabinet ministries and institutions, as well as regional administrations were instructed to prioritize the vaccination program in their 2021 budgets.

However, Jokowi did not provide further details on a timeline as well as on the vaccines that would be distributed in the country. The government also did not mention the number of people targeted in the vaccination program. 

When asked about the future vaccination program, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the Health Ministry’s spokesperson for COVID-19 vaccines, said the matter still needed to be discussed further.

On Dec. 10, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto had said that the government would cover the cost only for a third of the COVID-19 vaccine recipients.

Terawan said the vaccination program would target 67 percent of 167 million people aged between 18 and 59 years, as recommended by the Technical Advisory Group on Immunization. (dpk)

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.