JAKARTA: As Indonesia continues its hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine for its population of more than 260 million, authorities on Wednesday said they are looking into locally producing a drug that is undergoing the third phase of clinical trials in Abu Dhabi.
“There’s the possibility that many people would require vaccination more than once, so we’d need to have at least 300 million to 400 million vaccines, therefore we have to be self-sufficient in vaccine production and development,” Indonesian Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said on Wednesday.
Penny Lukito, head of the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM), said Indonesia and the UAE have talked about the possibility of “manufacturing the vaccine” — which is being developed by Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare and China’s vaccine manufacturer Sinopharm CNBG — to boost the drug’s production and supply.
It follows her visit to Abu Dhabi on Aug. 24-26, when she met with the assistant undersecretary of health policy and licensing at the UAE’s Ministry of Health, the acting undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, the CEO of G42 and a Sinopharm representative. Lukito also visited the vaccine-testing center at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
She said she had discussed with the G42 CEO the “possibility” of Indonesia’s pharma industry being part of the vaccine commercial production chain — to be used in Indonesia and abroad — because the UAE’s vaccine is “still in its early phase.”
Indonesia’s state-owned vaccine manufacturer Bio Farma, in preparation to produce vaccines such as the one developed by Chinese company Sinovac — whose vaccine is undergoing the third phase of clinical trials in the Indonesian city of Bandung — is boosting its capacity to produce up to 250 million doses next year.
The talks on Indonesia being part of the vaccine production program follow an agreement for the supply of 10 million doses of a yet-to-be-imported vaccine later this year.
The agreement was signed during a visit by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir to Abu Dhabi two weeks ago.
Lukito said her visit to the UAE was to ensure that the clinical trial in Abu Dhabi “is going well.”
She added: “We saw that it’s very well organized, with a large number of testing subjects with a variety of different nationalities.”
The BPOM said in a statement: “The candidate COVID-19 vaccine was granted an emergency use authorization by China’s food and drug agency, the National Medicines Products Administration (NMPA), in July this year, based on the results of its phase one and two clinical trials and it has been certified as halal.”
A halal-certified vaccine could smooth the process for its import and distribution in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
COVID-19 has impacted Indonesia’s population in all 34 provinces across the archipelago, with the number of infections rising daily.