Indonesia to make available Covid-19 booster shots from early 2022

Future vaccine shots would not be free except for the poor under the government-sponsored health insurance scheme called BPJS. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Indonesia plans to let people pay for a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot from early next year.

"We will open to the public vaccine brands that we get, so those who wish to get a booster may choose. The price for each shot will not be too expensive. Around 100,000 rupiah (S$9.40) each," Mr Budi Gunadi Sadikin, the health minister, told parliament on Wednesday (Aug 25).

He said the booster shots would be available once the aim of the national vaccination programme is reached. This is now slated for January 2022.

Mr Budi, who was responding to a question from a member of the health committee in Parliament, said it was not a matter of whether a booster shot was effective, but whether it was ethical to allow for one now.

He said that Indonesia has so far partly vaccinated 58 million people, out of which 30 million are fully vaccinated, but the target was for 208 million people, above the age of 12, to be inoculated.

He also said that the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus had made herd immunity unachievable and that President Joko Widodo had agreed that Covid-19 be treated as endemic.

Future vaccine shots would not be free except for the poor under the government-sponsored health insurance scheme called BPJS, he said.

Indonesia has mostly relied on Sinovac for the national vaccination programme but on July 16 began administering the Moderna vaccine as booster shots to 50 medical workers. The country has received eight million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States government as an aid package, and an additional 4.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Mr Budi told lawmakers.

Mr Budi on Wednesday also briefed Parliament on the latest upgrade of the country's tracing app PeduliLindungi, the Indonesian equivalent of Singapore's TraceTogether.

He said that from next month, the app would be the only means for domestic travellers to prove that they had been vaccinated and tested negative before check-in at airports or boarding public transportation for long-distance trips.

"Going paperless is to prevent counterfeiting," Mr Budi said.

Besides screening travellers, the PeduliLindungi app is also used for contact tracing and health protocols management.

"If anyone tests positive, within seconds the system can alert the people who have come into close contact with the infected," said Mr Budi. In terms of health protocols, he cited an example of a sports stadium which could divide spectators into two sections - those vaccinated and unvaccinated.

"In the vaccinated section, one may take off his mask, shout and cheer during the match and food and drink counters are available," he said.

He also told MPs that the government was open to having the PeduliLIndungi platform integrated into popular mobile phone apps.

"We will not monopolise. We will have this (PeduliLindungi) platform open to anyone such as (Jakarta-based ride hailing, food delivery app) Gojek, (Singapore-based e-commerce) Shopee. They have very large downloads already," Mr Budi said, stressing that the government only wanted to ensure that the platform could be used by as many people as possible.

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