Indonesia mulls local production of China-UAE vaccine

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample from a woman during a public testing for the coronavirus conducted in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 02 September 2020

Indonesia mulls local production of China-UAE vaccine

  • Move aimed at ensuring supply self-sufficiency

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.

Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

Updated 20 September 2020

Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

  • There have been conflicting reports from lawmakers and residents about number of fatalities
  • Taliban says none of its fighters killed in attack

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry pledged on Sunday to probe “allegations” of at least 12 civilians being killed in an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters in the northern Kunduz province a day earlier.
The pledge followed inconsistencies about the number of casualties, with the insurgent group saying that none of its men had died in the attack.
“The Taliban were the target, and 30 of them were killed. Initial reports indicate no harm was inflicted upon civilians, but we are probing reports by locals about civilian casualties. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces take allegations of civilian harm seriously, and these claims will be investigated,” Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the defense ministry in Kabul, told Arab News.
He added that the ministry would “share any details” about civilian casualties “once the probe is over.”
If confirmed, Saturday’s airstrike in the Khan Abad district, which lies nearly 350 km from Kabul and is mostly controlled by the Taliban, will be the latest in a series of air raids killing civilians in several parts of the country.
It follows a week after crucial intra-Afghan talks between the government and Taliban officials began in Doha, Qatar on Saturday, to end the protracted war and plan a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan.
There were conflicting accounts from civilians and lawmakers in the area about the incident, with two provincial council members, Ghulam Rabbani Rabbani and Sayed Yusuf, saying that at least 12 civilians had died in Saturday’s air raid.
“Since the area is under Taliban’s control, we have not been able to find out exactly how the civilians were killed,” Rabbani told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Nilofar Jalali, a legislator from Kunduz, offered another version of the attack, which she said “hit a residential area before sunrise when people were still in their bed.”
“Children and women are among the dead, and 18 civilians have also been wounded. I informed the defense minister about it; he said he will check and get back to me, but has not,” she told Arab News. However, Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the reports in a statement on Sunday, saying that “no fighter of the group was killed,” before placing the number of civilian deaths at 23.
Kunduz and other parts of the country have witnessed an escalation in attacks by both the government and the Taliban in recent weeks, despite their negotiators participating in the Qatar talks which are part of a US-facilitated process following 19 years of conflict in the country — Washington’s longest war in history.
The Qatar discussions are based on a historic accord signed between Washington and the Taliban in February this year which, among other things, paves the way for the complete withdrawal of US-led troops from the country by next spring, in return for a pledge from the Taliban not to allow use Afghanistan to harm any country’s, including US, interests.
Kabul’s negotiators in Qatar are pushing the Taliban to declare a cease-fire, while the Taliban say it can be included in the agenda and that both sides must first ascertain “the real cause” of the war.
Some analysts believe that while delegates of the parties are struggling to agree over the mechanism and agenda of the talks in Qatar, their fighters in Afghanistan are “focusing on military tactics to capture grounds” so that they can use it as a “bargaining chip” at the negotiation table.
“Both sides think that if they have more territory then they can argue their case from a position of strength during the talks and use it as leverage,” Shafiq Haqpal, an analyst and a former university teacher, told Arab News.
“The sides have not yet agreed on the mechanism of the talks despite the Qatar talks, which began on the 12th of September. So, this is an indication that things are not going the right way politically, and both sides are trying their luck on the battlefield here.”