Indonesian health workers say they are in better position to fight Covid-19 after vaccination

A doctor prepares to receive a dose of Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine at a district health facility in Jakarta.
A doctor prepares to receive a dose of Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine at a district health facility in Jakarta.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Nurse Sustina Syofianti felt relieved and upbeat after getting the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Jan 16.

She had been vaccinated before for other diseases but was still nervous about being among the first to receive the China-made Sinovac vaccine.

But the 33-year old, who is single, overcame her jitters with help from colleagues and her own research.

"Finally I felt assured. I want to protect myself and my family as I'm exposed (to the virus)," said the nurse who has been treating Covid-19 patients at a private hospital in South Tangerang, Banten. "I believe the government does its best. It won't give us vaccines detrimental to us."

Scheduled to receive her second dose on Jan 30, Ms Sustina is among more than 173,000 health workers across Indonesia who have been inoculated since the government launched its nationwide vaccination drive on Jan 13.

Indonesia is the hardest-hit by the pandemic in South-east Asia, with 989,262 infected and nearly 28,000 dead from the coronavirus.

It seeks to inoculate 181.5 million people, or two-thirds of its nearly 270 million population, in 15 months to achieve herd immunity.

As many as 1.47 million health workers and another 17.4 million public workers will be inoculated by April.

But a few obstacles, such as registration issues and logistical problems, remain.

Perhaps even more daunting is the fact that many people remain sceptical about being vaccinated.

An online survey by the Health Ministry and the Indonesian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation last September found that 64.8 per cent of more than 115,000 participants were keen to be vaccinated. But 27.6 per cent were doubtful and 7.6 per cent rejected the move outright.

Just before the nationwide vaccination programme rolled out, the Indonesian Medical Association issued a decree to call for all medical workers to take part in it.

Neurosurgeon Agung Heri Wahyudi said that, like his colleagues, he was initially worried about the Covid-19 vaccine.

"I believe all health workers who receive the vaccines share the same feeling because the vaccines are new. It's so human," he told The Straits Times.

He has battled the pandemic since last March and now views himself in a better position to fight the disease. "As the efficacy of the vaccine is 65 per cent, I have at least 65 per cent of the protection. At least I'm safer although I'm not 100 per cent safe. It's better than not at all," said the father of four.

Dr Sutrisno, who goes by one name and is the chairman of East Java's branch of the Indonesian Medical Association, received his first dose on Jan 14 and will get his second one on Thursday.

He said: "We are facing a very tough situation with an influx of incoming patients. Inevitably, the vaccine is the best option (available)," the 52-year old obstetrician-gynaecologist told The Straits Times.