Indonesia's search for a vaccine: A look at the Covid-19 vaccine trials under way in the country

Volunteers waiting to register for a Covid-19 immunisation simulation in Depok, Indonesia, on Oct 22, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Private Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, and Bio Farma, an Indonesian state-owned pharma company, teamed up and launched, on Aug 11, Phase 3 of a clinical trial for a Covid-19 candidate vaccine in Indonesia.

Some 1,620 healthy Indonesian volunteers, aged 18 to 59, are involved in the six-month trial, whose outcome will determine whether the vaccine receives regulatory approval.

Earlier Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials were conducted on a smaller scale in China. They tested for vaccine safety and immunogenicity - the ability to trigger an immune response.

Sinovac's vaccine is expected to be the first on the Indonesian market. The company has said it is committed to supplying 1.5 million doses next month.

Dr Neni Nurainy, Bio Farma's research and development project senior integration manager, told The Straits Times that the Sinovac vaccine uses inactivated virus cells to stimulate immune response. Inactivated means the virus has been killed, she said.

"This method is a mature and proven technology that has been used to produce vaccines against influenza and polio," she added.

Besides Sinovac, Kalbe Farma - Indonesia's biggest pharmaceutical company - has partnered South Korean biotech firm Genexine to begin Phase 2 of clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine next month.

Indonesia is also planning to produce its own vaccine, without the involvement of foreign partners. It is known as Merah Putih, or red and white, after the colours of its national flag.

The vaccine candidate is being developed by a national consortium under the Research and Technology Ministry, led by the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology.

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