Indonesian President Joko Widodo was injected with a vaccine made in China on live television on Wednesday as health officials prepared for a nationwide deployment.
Human trials in Indonesia have shown the vaccine, CoronaVac, to be 65.3% safe and effective. But Brazilian scientists said on Tuesday there was an effectiveness rate of just over 50% – far below the effectiveness rate of 78%. announced last week.
Mr Joko was the first in Indonesia to receive the inoculation, health officials said, as he wanted to assure the public that it was safe, effective and halal, which means it is approved under Islamic law.
Behind him, as he received his injection, was a red sign with white letters proclaiming that the vaccine was “safe and halal”.
“The Covid vaccination is important for us to break the chain of transmission of this coronavirus and provide health protection for all of us Indonesians and help accelerate the process of economic recovery,” Joko said after receiving his vaccine.
Indonesia, which authorized emergency use of Sinovac vaccine Monday, had previously ordered 125.5 million doses from the company and smaller quantities from several others. Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country with 270 million people, hopes to achieve collective immunity by vaccinating two-thirds of the population within 15 months.
But there are still questions surrounding the Sinovac vaccine, which China began administering last year before human trials ended.
The company has yet to release public data on the results of its trials. And the vaccine’s efficacy rate, as measured in Brazil and Indonesia, is still well below the rates of over 90% achieved by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been approved in the United States and others. country.
Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, said CoronaVac’s relatively low efficacy rate should prompt Indonesia to seek alternatives. He also questioned the transparency of the various trials and published data.
“At least Indonesia has a vaccine as a tool to protect its health workers and avoid staff shortages,” he said. “Of course the government should do its best to get other vaccines.”
Indonesia plans to give the vaccine first to medical personnel, police and soldiers. He also launched a nationwide promotional campaign to persuade members of the public to get the vaccine, which will be free.
After Mr. Joko was vaccinated in front of the cameras, there was the head of the army, the head of the national police and the new Minister of Health, along with other dignitaries and so-called influencers.
Indonesia has reported nearly 850,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 25,000 deaths, Southeast Asia’s highest numbers in both categories.