Indonesia rolls out company-funded Covid-19 vaccinations of workers

The private inoculation programme will complement Indonesia's free vaccines for the public. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Indonesia is stepping up its vaccination programme, with the start of company-funded inoculations for employees on Tuesday (May 18).

Workers in labour-intensive industries such as food and petrochemicals will be the first to receive their vaccinations under the roll-out, as the country casts its eye on maintaining its economic output.

President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday: "We hope factories, industrial estates will all be protected from Covid-19... They play an important role in our economic growth. If production is impeded, our economic growth will decline."

He was speaking during an online broadcast of a vaccination exercise held at 18 locations at an industrial estate in West Java province.

Companies taking part in the programme include consumer goods giant Unilever Indonesia, petrochemical producer Chandra Asri and Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food. Each company will be administering between 2,000 and 4,000 shots for their respective workers.

The private inoculation programme will complement Indonesia's free vaccines for the public. The country started its vaccination drive in mid-January, focusing on high priority groups such as health workers, the police and military. This free vaccine programme will officially be expanded to the public by July.

Mr Widodo said Indonesia, like other nations, is facing an increasing challenge in procuring vaccines.

He added that for the private vaccine programme, Indonesia has so far received a shipment of only 420,000 doses, from the 30 million commitment it had received from makers.

China's Sinopharm vaccine is initially being used for the private vaccine programme while China's Sinovac and Britain's AstraZeneca are the suppliers for the free vaccine programme.

Mr Widodo said in his speech: "Up to now, we have put 23 million vaccine doses into arms, from a target of 380 million doses."

The proportion of Indonesia's total population that has received at least one dose of a vaccine as at May 4 was 4.64 per cent, according to and SDG-Tracker, a joint effort between the University of Oxford and non-profit organisation Global Change Data Lab.

The figure for Indonesia is the highest among countries in South-east Asia with a population of more than 20 million.

Malaysia recorded 2.83 per cent, Thailand 1.65 per cent, the Philippines 1.54 per cent, and Vietnam 0.6 per cent. Myanmar had 1.84 per cent as at March 31, the latest data available. Meanwhile, the figure for Singapore is 31.67 per cent.

The private vaccine programme is expected to help Indonesia reach herd immunity faster, Mr Widodo said, adding that the nation expects to inoculate a total of 181.5 million, or 67 per cent, of its 270 million population by 2022. Experts have cited a need for 60 per cent to 70 per cent of a population to be inoculated to achieve herd immunity, although higher figures have also been mentioned given Covid-19's transmissibility.

Mr Widodo said: "We hope in August, or by September the latest, we will have inoculated 70 million people, so by then the (epidemiological) curve will be at a low point."

Indonesia recorded minus 0.74 per cent economic growth in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier, and expects to turn to positive growth in the second quarter because production across industries will run normally, he added.

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