JAKARTA: Indonesia has ordered an additional 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine as it struggles to contain one of the worst outbreaks in Asia.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told an online press conference on Wednesday that agreements had been signed to provide 50 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine along with 50 million doses from the US biotech firm Novavax.
More than 735,000 Indonesians out of a population of 269 million have contracted COVID-19, with the number of deaths rising to 22,000.
“The government today has made significant progress by signing procurement agreements for 50 million doses of vaccine from AstraZeneca and 50 million doses from Novavax by (state-owned vaccine maker) Bio Farma,” he told reporters.
The minister said that the two deals, together with China’s Sinovac vaccine and 54 million doses of coronavirus shots that the country is expected to obtain through the global World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility, will provide enough options for Indonesia’s mass inoculation program.
Another deal to order of 50 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer is due to be signed in the first week of January.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told the same press conference that 1.8 million Sinovac vaccine doses are expected to reach the country on Thursday. The first consignment of 1.2 million doses from the Chinese company arrived in Jakarta earlier this month.
“The arrival of the vaccines will mean we have 3 million doses of Sinovac vaccine in Indonesia,” Marsudi said.
According to the health minister, Indonesia will need 426 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to inoculate 188 million people in January.
Sadikin, the former deputy minister for state-owned enterprises, was appointed to the country’s top health position in a Cabinet reshuffle last week after his predecessor was widely criticized for mishandling the coronavirus response.
About 1.3 million health workers will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by 17.4 million front-line public officials and 21.5 million elderly in the first phase of the inoculation drive from January to April, he said.
Experts believe that by inoculating 188 million people, the coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia should become more controllable.
“It will also reduce the number of infections and, consequently, the number of fatalities, even though the vaccines differ in their efficacy,” Laura Navika Yamani, an epidemiologist at Airlangga University in Surabaya, told Arab News.
The latest vaccine procurement comes as the Southeast Asian nation braces for a possible surge of infections in mid-January after the year-end holiday season, despite many regional bans on new year’s celebrations and mass gatherings.
Indonesia on Monday also announced the closure of its borders to foreign travelers until the first two weeks of 2021, amid concerns over the discovery of a more infectious strain in the UK.