JAKARTA - The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines has arrived in Indonesia.
The world's largest archipelagic state is now drafting the rules governing their distribution across the country, a task that is to be completed within two weeks.
At about 9pm local time on Sunday (Dec 6), 1.2 million doses of the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech reached Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta Airport. From there, they were taken to Bandung in West Java province to be stored at state drugmaker Bio Farma's facilities.
Another 1.8 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine will arrive in January.
"The arrival and availability of the vaccines will be gradual and so will the vaccination programme, which will be carried out gradually, with priority given to the medical workers and public service officers," said Mr Airlangga Hartarto, the minister heading the national Covid-19 task force, during a Monday (Dec 7) virtual media briefing with several other ministers tasked with procuring vaccines.
The government will adopt a dual approach for the vaccination programme, with some getting the shots for free and others covering the cost of their vaccination, added Mr Airlangga, who is also the coordinating economic affairs minister.
Those who pay will fall under the so-called "Mandiri" scheme. They can choose the vaccine brand among those available. This scheme will be rolled out on a first-come-first-served basis.
It is not clear when the vaccination programme will start. But officials have said that January is the earliest Indonesia can roll it out.
On Sunday night, President Joko Widodo said that BPOM, the independent food and drug agency, will have to give emergency approval for the vaccination programme to start. He added that before roll-out, the distribution system across the country's 34 provinces - including more than 500 regencies and cities - must be finalised.
"Once we decide a date for our vaccination programme to start, everything will have to be ready," Mr Joko said, adding that supporting equipment, human resources, and a distribution system must first be in place.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said during the same briefing that her office has allocated funds for the health ministry, as well as the regional governments ( including cities and regencies), to operate the vaccination programme.
Some 10,134 Puskesmas (community health centres) and 2,877 hospitals across Indonesia will be involved in the programme.
The government has procured hundreds of vaccine refrigerators and other supporting equipment, including vaccine carriers, cold boxes and syringes, Ms Sri Mulyani added.
Indonesia has so far secured commitments for the shipment of 189 million doses from China's Sinovac, Maryland-based Novavax, and Covax, an international Covid-19 vaccine allocation platform co-led by the World Health Organisation.
The plan is for 107.2 million people - those aged 18 to 59 - out of Indonesia's 270 million to be vaccinated. Those with pre-existing medical conditions or deemed unfit will not be included in the programme.
The country has also set aside a buffer of 15 per cent for its vaccine stockpile. At two doses per person, it would thus need 247 million doses in its stockpile by next year.