Indonesia's Jokowi slams richer nations for Covid-19 vaccine nationalism

Mr Joko Widodo set a target for the government to administer one million doses each day to reach herd immunity.
Mr Joko Widodo set a target for the government to administer one million doses each day to reach herd immunity.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo slammed richer nations for vaccine nationalism that is hampering the world's supply of Covid-19 vaccines and prolonging the global pandemic.

"We must give vaccine access to all countries," Mr Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, said in an interview on Wednesday (April 7).

"Poor countries, developing countries, developed countries must be given equal treatment. If not, the pandemic will not end."

While nearly 700 million doses have been administered worldwide, the vast majority of them went to people in richer countries and vaccine-producing nations.

The European Union has sought to block shipments, while countries like the United States and Britain secured orders for more doses than their entire population needs.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation's Covax initiative to supply Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries has been held back by slow funding and moves by vaccine producers like India that sought to safeguard enough supplies for domestic use.

For Indonesia, which has given out around 13.5 million vaccine doses, vaccine nationalism means it has to slow down its programme, as it will receive only 20 million vaccine doses instead of the 30 million expected in March and April.

Earlier this year, Mr Widodo set a target for the government to administer one million doses each day to reach herd immunity for its 270 million population. That number reached as high as 780,000 a day in March, before easing to about 500,000 recently and likely less as supply dwindles in the months ahead before picking up in July.

"On the field, there is no issue, the problem is the supply," he said. "It is useless for a country to hoard vaccines. The coronavirus remains and infections will continue to spread."