An additional 1.8 million doses of Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech’s COVID-19 candidate vaccine, CoronaVac, arrived at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, on Thursday, with the government seeking authorization for the vaccine’s emergency use by January.
The country had received 1.2 million doses of the vaccine on Dec. 6, bringing the total to 3 million ready-to-use doses. The vaccines will be stored at state-owned pharmaceutical holding company Bio Farma’s warehouse in Bandung, West Java, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said.
“In the near future, it’s expected that 15 million doses of bulk vaccine from Sinovac, which will then be manufactured [into individual doses] by Bio Farma, will also arrive in Indonesia,” she said during a virtual press briefing on Thursday.
Indonesia’s Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) has not yet authorized the emergency use of the vaccine. The government is hoping for the approval in January so that the vaccination of 1.3 million medical workers can begin in the same month.
Read also: How CoronaVac’s efficacy, new virus strains will affect Indonesia’s vaccination blitz
The BPOM said it was expecting interim results from the ongoing late-stage CoronaVac trials in Bandung in early January. But experts have said that the agency must also take trials carried out by other countries into account, given the relatively small number of participants in the Bandung study: 1,620 people.
Last week, a Brazilian health authority said trials of the same vaccine in the South American country showed an efficacy rate of between 50 and 90 percent, Reuters reported. Some 13,000 participants were involved in the study. Reuters also reported that Turkish researchers had found that CoronaVac was 91.25 percent effective through interim trial results based on data from 1,322 of the study’s 7,000 participants.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said Indonesia had ordered 125 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine, mostly in bulk form, and that they were expected to continue arriving in the country until January 2022.
On Thursday, Bio Farma signed a supply commitment letter with American firm Novavax and British firm AstraZeneca, each for 50 million doses of their respective candidate vaccines.
Novavax has only recently begun a large late-stage study of its COVID-19 candidate vaccine in the United States, Reuters reported. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), meanwhile, has recently approved AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine for emergency use – making it the first government in the world to do so.
Retno said the UK’s approval was good news for Indonesia, as the MHRA was one of the six regulatory authorities that had a “reliance mechanism” with the BPOM.
“Through this mechanism of reliance, the issuance of emergency use authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine in Indonesia will be easier. The emergency use authorization result in England can be used as a basis of review for the issuance of emergency use authorization in Indonesia,” she said.
Read also: Majority of Indonesians unsure about COVID-19 vaccination, survey finds
Indonesia hopes to inoculate 181.5 million people to reach the threshold of herd immunity and protect those who cannot receive vaccines. This means the country must secure 426 million vaccine doses.
After medical workers are vaccinated, 17.4 million public workers will be prioritized, and if trials show promising results for participants above 59 years old, 21.5 million elderly people will be next in line.
“It will take more than 12 months to wrap up the vaccination program,” Budi said at the press briefing.
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