Indonesia to start Covid-19 vaccinations on Jan 14

President Joko Widodo will receive the shots as a way to build confidence of the vaccines. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesia will begin vaccinating medical workers and public officials in all 34 provinces from January 14 as the country races to curb what many expect will be a resurgence of Covid-19 infections following gatherings and travel during Christmas and New Year.

President Joko Widodo and his Cabinet members will kick off the nationwide vaccination programme by getting the first shots of China's Sinovac Biotech vaccine a day earlier (Jan 13), health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.

"When medical workers are getting the vaccine shots, heads of local governments (regents and mayors), governors please visit the grassroots to help build confidence (about the vaccines) among the public," Mr Budi said in a coordination meeting on Tuesday (Jan 5) at the domestic affairs ministry.

Three groups will receive the shots in the initial phase. They comprise high-ranking officials in Jakarta and across the provinces, committee members of medical workers' associations and prominent medical doctors across the provinces and religious leaders, a statement issued by the domestic affairs ministry quoted Mr Budi as saying.

Like in many other countries around the world, some Indonesians remain sceptical about getting vaccinated partly because of the speed at which all Covid-19 vaccines were developed. The vaccines approved for use thus far were developed less than a year after the coronavirus emerged.

A Jakarta-based polling company, Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC), said in mid-December that 40 per cent of 1,202 respondents in a random survey were undecided on whether they would come forward to get the vaccine shot. A slightly smaller number or 37 per cent said they would and 17 per cent did not want to be vaccinated. The remaining 6 per cent did not respond to the survey.

Slightly more than half or 56 per cent believed in the safety of the vaccines provided by the government, according to the SMRC.

Nationwide distribution of the Sinovac vaccine began in Indonesia on Sunday, three days after state vaccine producer Bio Farma received three million doses.

Many officials in cities across the sprawling archipelago are hoping that the nationwide vaccination programme will curb the spread of the virus, as strict lockdowns have been difficult to enforce due to weak compliance.

The capital, Jakarta, the most populous city, has extended its Covid-19 curbs, known as a transition partial lockdown, for the next two weeks as it tries to pre-empt an expected surge in infections after Christmas and the New Year. The transition partial lockdown includes limiting social gatherings to five people and capping restaurant occupancy at 50 per cent capacity.

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