Indonesia seeks AstraZeneca vaccine while pursuing own trials

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AstraZeneca could start profiting from its Covid-19 vaccine as soon as July next year, the Financial Times has reported, citing a memo showing the British drugmaker can declare when it considers the pandemic to have ended.
Indonesia is in talks with Britain-based AstraZeneca to secure vaccines while ramping up local output to inoculate its more than 270 million people. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesia seeks to secure vaccines from AstraZeneca, part of its plan to procure doses from overseas while ramping up local output to inoculate its more than 270 million people.

The country's foreign and state-owned enterprises ministries are in talks with the Britain-based company, Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, who leads the nation's vaccine task force, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television's Yvonne Man.

Indonesia remains under the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, with the number of cases tripling to more than 300,000 since the end of July.

More than 11,000 people have died from the disease.

While the government has allocated nearly US$50 billion (S$68 billion) towards fighting the pandemic and mitigating its impact, that is unlikely to stop the economy from tipping into a second straight quarter of contraction.

The government seeks to get effective vaccines as soon as possible by securing deals with China's Sinovac Biotech and the United Arab Emirates' G42 Healthcare, but it is also looking to supplement that by producing enough doses locally for a population that is the world's fourth largest.

"Indonesia needs to have some independence in vaccine production," Mr Brodjonegoro said.

The government will invite as many as five companies to help produce its locally produced doses, he said.

Human trials for the vaccine, named "Merah Putih" or red and white after the country's flag, will begin in the first quarter of next year, he added.

Overall, he expects Indonesia to require 540 million doses considering a second round of vaccinations could be needed.

Mr Brodjonegoro, who was the first finance minister under President Joko Widodo's administration, said the government will provide free doses for about 68 million people through the country's healthcare system, known as BPJS Kesehatan.

The government is ready to bear the cost, he added.

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