UAE, China to supply Indonesia with vaccine

UAE, China to supply Indonesia with vaccine
Indonesian firemen at work to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak at Margo City shopping mall, which was closed to the public, in Depok, Indonesia. (AP)
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Updated 24 August 2020

UAE, China to supply Indonesia with vaccine

UAE, China to supply Indonesia with vaccine
  • Deal inked during a three-day visit by Indonesian officials to the emirates

JAKARTA: The UAE and China will provide Indonesia with 10 million doses of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) drug this year as Jakarta shores up efforts for vaccine cooperation, amid struggles to contain the outbreak in the country of 270 million people.

The commitment by Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare and China’s vaccine manufacturer Sinopharm CNBG, which has been conducting the phase three clinical trial of a candidate COVID-19 vaccine in Abu Dhabi since June, was made to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Saturday during a three-day visit to the UAE.

Marsudi, accompanied by State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir, began the visit on Friday, the first by Indonesian officials since the two countries agreed to establish a travel corridor for essential business, official, and diplomatic purposes on July 29.

“Indonesia has also sent a reviewer team to closely observe the phase three clinical trial of a candidate vaccine that G42 and Sinopharm are cooperating to develop, and we have in principle agreed for future triangular cooperation between Indonesia, G42, and Sinopharm,” Marsudi told journalists in Jakarta on Saturday evening via a virtual press conference from Abu Dhabi.

The two officials met with their Emirati counterparts, Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Suhail bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei, minister of energy and infrastructure, to follow up on various economic cooperations on energy, infrastructure, and agriculture investments worth $22.9 billion, which were secured during President Joko Widodo’s visit
to the Gulf state in January.

This is the second vaccine supply commitment which Indonesia had secured in a week, following a deal with China’s biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, when Marsudi and Thohir visited Sanya on China’s Hainan Island earlier this week. 

Both Sinovac and Indonesia’s state-owned vaccine manufacturer, Bio Farma, signed a deal on Thursday for up to 50 million doses from November 2020 to March 2021.

“By the end of 2020, Indonesia will have up to 30 million vaccines from G42 and Sinovac,” Achmad Rizal Purnama, the Foreign Ministry’s director for Middle East affairs, told Arab News on Sunday.

Bio Farma is expected to receive the first shipment of 10 million vaccines from Sinovac in November with another 10 million in December, spokesperson Iwan Setiawan told Arab News.

Indonesia has been conducting clinical trials on 1,620 volunteers for a candidate vaccine developed by Sinovac since Aug. 11 in West Java. The human trials are scheduled to end in February 2021.

According to the World Health Organization, drugs manufactured by Sinovac and Sinopharm are among the six vaccines, out of 30 developed worldwide, currently undergoing phase three of clinical evaluation, with the remaining 24 still in the first and second phases.

In addition to a vaccine supply commitment from G42 through Kimia Farma, Thohir said that G42 also forged cooperation with an Indonesian pharmaceutical company, Indofarma, to supply artificial intelligence-based test kits for the detection of COVID-19 by using laser technology.

“We think that this technology could help to trace cases more rapidly and surely would support us in conducting economic activities safely,” Marsudi said.

Meanwhile, Purnama said that the deal with Indofarma would seek to develop the test kit to also detect other vector-borne or bacteria-borne diseases, which would be very useful in Indonesia where the prevalence of mosquito-borne dengue fever and malaria, as well as bacteria-borne tuberculosis, is still high.

As per Aug. 23, Indonesia reported 2,037 new infection cases across all 34 provinces, raising the national total to 153,535, with 6,680 deaths reported, while 107,500 patients have since recovered from the disease.

The capital Jakarta and other provinces on Indonesia’s most populated island of Java remain the worst-affected regions.

Unlike other countries, Indonesia did not impose a full lockdown as part of its virus control measures, opting instead to enforce what it termed as large-scale social restrictions, most of which have now been eased.

It also encouraged travel to boost domestic tourism, in compliance with health protocols, despite cases of infections remaining high, since the national economy sits on the verge of a recession with its GDP contracting for the first time in 20 years to 5.32 percent year on year in the second quarter of this year.