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Indonesia Seeks AstraZeneca Vaccine While Pushing Own Trials

Arys Aditya and Harry Suhartono
·2 mins read
Indonesia Seeks AstraZeneca Vaccine While Pushing Own Trials
Indonesia Seeks AstraZeneca Vaccine While Pushing Own Trials

(Bloomberg) -- Indonesia seeks to secure vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc, part of its plan to procure doses from overseas while ramping up local output to inoculate its more than 270 million people.

The country’s foreign and state-owned enterprises ministries are in talks with the U.K.-based company, Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, who leads the nation’s vaccine task force, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Yvonne Man.

Indonesia Became a Testing Ground for a Chinese Virus Vaccine

Indonesia remains under the grip of the coronavirus pandemic with the number of cases tripling to more than 300,000 since the end of July. More than 11,000 people have died from the disease. While the government has allocated nearly $50 billion toward fighting the pandemic and mitigating its impact, that’s unlikely to stop the economy from tipping into a second straight quarter of contraction.

The government seeks to get effective vaccines as soon as possible by securing deals with China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and the United Arab Emirates’ G42 Healthcare, but it’s also looking to supplement that by producing enough doses locally for a population that’s the world’s fourth largest.

“Indonesia needs to have some independence in vaccine production,” Brodjonegoro said.

The government will invite as many as five companies to help produce its locally produced doses, he said. Human trials for the vaccine, named “Merah Putih” or red and white after the country’s flag, will begin in the first quarter of next year, he added. Overall, he expects Indonesia to require 540 million doses considering a second round of vaccinations could be needed.

Herd Immunity

The local vaccine won’t use shark liver oil squalene as part of its adjuvant — a factor that accompanies a vaccine and amplifies its effects by giving extra stimulus to the immune system.

Brodjonegoro, who was the first finance minister under President Joko Widodo’s administration, said the government will provide free doses for about 68 million people through the country’s healthcare system, known as BPJS Kesehatan. The government is ready to bear the cost, he added.

More than 100,000 medical staff are being prepared to conduct the vaccination, with the government estimating that herd immunity would be achieved if 70% of its population is inoculated, Brodjonegoro said.

“The more staff that we can deploy, it will help us to achieve herd immunity faster,” he said.

(Updates with more detail in 8th and 10th paragraphs)

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