Private sector's Covid-19 vaccination plan will not affect govt's free jabs, says Indonesia

Indonesia was among early starters in rolling out a national vaccination programme. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesia's private sector vaccination drive, slated to be launched later this month, will not deprive citizens of free shots under the ongoing government roll-out.

The spokesman for the national vaccination programme for Covid-19, Dr Siti Nadia Tarmizi, said that the private and government-sponsored vaccination drives will take place in tandem to help Indonesia achieve herd immunity faster.

She added that measures were in place to prevent any "leak" of vaccines from the free government programme to the private sector one.

Indonesian laws guarantee free vaccines for all citizens during a pandemic, although a new health ministry regulation provides room for private vaccines.

The so-called "Gotong Royong" private programme will use only those vaccines outside the free vaccine programme. Vaccination for those under the private programme cannot take place at public health facilities and vaccine procurement will only be through a single government channel to avoid competition, said Dr Siti Nadia.

The world's fourth most populous country was among early starters in rolling out a national vaccination programme, with President Joko Widodo, Cabinet ministers and other prominent public figures receiving their first dose in a ceremonial setting at the presidential palace in Jakarta as early as mid-January.

After nearly three months into the programme, more than 8.3 million people have received their jabs. The country is currently administering half a million vaccine shots a day to citizens and hopes to dispense 77 million doses by end-June.

Indonesia is mainly relying on the CoronaVac, a vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, for its immunisation programme. In early March, the nation received 1.1 million doses of AstraZeneca from the UK to add to its stockpile.

The government plans to use China's Sinopharm and the US' Moderna vaccines for the gotong royong programme. Other possible vaccines include Anhui (China), Sputnik (Russia) and Johnson & Johnson (US). All imported vaccines used in Indonesia must be procured by state pharmaceutical company Bio Farma.

More than 17,000 private companies have signed up for the private vaccine programme, submitting the names of 8.7 million employees and eligible family members, said a statement issued by the Indonesian chamber of commerce and industry (Kadin), which is helping with the registration process.

"Private companies have to work with private health facilities, clinics. The cost of administering the vaccines to their respective employees should be borne by the companies," Dr Siti Nadia told The Straits Times on Tuesday (March 30).

Another possible private vaccine programme, dubbed "Mandiri" and first mentioned by health minister Budi Sadikin earlier this year, would be for any individual outside groups covered by the existing programmes. These will be people who are willing to pay for their own jabs, and choose their private clinic and vaccination time, Dr Nadia said, adding that: "At the moment, the Mandiri scheme is not available."

Indonesia has 122,000 active Covid-19 cases, a significant decline from around 177,000 at the peak in early February. The country is the hardest-hit by the pandemic in South-east Asia, with 1.5 million infections and more than 40,000 deaths as at Tuesday.

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