JAKARTA - Indonesia on Friday (July 16) began giving booster shots to its medical workers inoculated with Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine, as it battles a record-breaking surge in new infections and deaths caused by the more transmissible Delta variant.
Fifty professors of University of Indonesia's medical faculty and doctors at Jakarta's Dr Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital were given their Moderna booster shot at the hospital. They had previously received two Sinovac shots each.
Indonesia, which has overtaken India as the new epicentre of the pandemic in Asia, has seen rising infections among health workers, some leading to death, even though they have been fully immunised with the Sinovac vaccine. This has put extra pressure on the already overstretched hospitals and health facilities.
At least 1,245 Indonesian health workers have died from Covid-19 as at Tuesday, according to citizen data platform LaporCovid-19.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a foreign media briefing that the provision of the third vaccine doses was approved by the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ITAGI).
Citing the case of health workers at Dr Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, he noted that the doctors and nurses inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine had no symptoms when they contracted Covid-19, and this reduced the need for hospitalisation.
In a separate statement, the health minister said the process of giving the third jabs would be shorter than the earlier shots.
"The previous vaccination took around seven or eight weeks to cover 1.5 million. I hope this one will be faster because it will be just one shot," he said.
Indonesia has received 4.5 million doses of Moderna vaccine from the United States under the Covax facility backed by the World Health Organisation. The facility ensures the equitable distribution of vaccines.
Dr Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the Health Ministry's Covid-19 vaccination spokesman, told The Straits Times that the Moderna vaccine for health workers would be gradually dispatched to health agencies across the country.
Indonesia follows in the steps of some countries, such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which have also offered booster shots to those immunised with China-made vaccines. This comes amid concerns over their effectiveness against new and more transmissible coronavirus variants.
Indonesia recorded 54,000 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 2.78 million, while deaths rose by 1,205 within the past 24 hours, an all time daily-high, raising the overall fatalities to 71,397.
The Delta variant, first identified in India, has been found in 13 provinces, including five provinces in Indonesia's most-densely populated Java island, based on genome sequencing on 3,093 cases as at Thursday.