Indonesia pauses distribution of a batch of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

The batch consists of 448,480 vaccine doses. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia is temporarily halting distribution of one batch of AstraZeneca vaccine to run tests for sterility and toxicity following reports of adverse effects after immunisations, the Health Ministry said on Sunday (May 16).

The batch consists of 448,480 vaccine doses that arrived in the South-east Asian nation last month, part of a delivery of more than 3.85 million doses from the Covax Facility, backed by the World Health Organisation.

Some of the doses have been distributed in the capital city Jakarta and the province of North Sulawesi, as well as given to the military, the ministry said in a statement.

A national committee in charge of monitoring effects of coronavirus vaccination launched an investigation earlier this month after a 22-year-old man in Jakarta died a day after receiving an AstraZeneca shot.

The man received his dose from the CTMAV547 batch, health ministry spokesman Siti Nadia Tarmizi told Reuters.

"This is a form of caution by the government to ensure the safety of this vaccine," she said in a statement, adding that distribution of other batches of AstraZeneca vaccines will not be affected.

The batch test could take at least two weeks, said the head of the vaccine monitoring committee, Mr Hindra Irawan Satari.

"After it is proven that it is sterile and does not contain toxins, the use of the vaccine will be resumed. The fastest we can get the results will be in two weeks," he said.

An AstraZeneca representative could not immediately comment.

Since the start of the pandemic early last year, Indonesia has recorded around 1.74 million cases of infection of the coronavirus that causes the potentially fatal Covid-19 respiratory disease. The country's death toll stands at 47,967.

The government has been pushing to accelerate its vaccination programme to control the spread of the virus. Official data showed that as at Saturday, nearly nine million people have been fully vaccinated.

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