JAKARTA - Indonesia kicked off its vaccination programme for young people on Thursday (July 1), starting with Jakarta, as it battles the rise in Covid-19 infections among minors in recent weeks.
The capital city began inoculating 100 young people aged 12 to 17 after the Indonesia Food and Drug Monitoring Agency approved the use of the Sinovac vaccine for this age group.
The number of children infected has tripled since May, with infant fatalities surging rapidly, the Indonesian Paediatric Society (IDAI) said.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said that the vaccination programme would target 1.3 million children in Jakarta. The city government would open vaccination centres at schools across Jakarta, he added.
IDAI chairman, Prof Aman Bhakti Pulungan, told The Straits Times that children now make up 12 per cent to 15 per cent of the total number of Covid-19 patients.
He revealed that weekly child deaths from Covid-19 jumped to 24 last week from 13 in the previous week, and many of them were below five years old.
The rate of increase is greater than that for total Covid-19 fatalities, which increased from 1,783 to 2,476 nationwide over the corresponding period.
The number of weekly infections has also surged quickly. In early May, there were between 2,000 and 3,000 cases in a week. But the figure climbed to around 5,000 cases in the third week of June and exceeded 6,000 in the fourth week, according to data compiled by paediatricians under the IDAI.
"I would say this is just the tip of an iceberg, as our testing remains low, except in Jakarta and several cities," Prof Aman said, adding that testing among children was even lower.
He added that the vaccination drive for the young people, similar to the adults, would protect them from infection, and even if infected, they would be less likely to have severe symptoms.
Dr Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 vaccination spokesman, told ST that the programme would first target between 24 and 27 million children aged 12 to 17 nationwide. She added that the coverage might be expanded later depending on the available clinical trial data.
Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous nation of 270 million, struggled with a sharp increase in infections last month, posting new records daily since June 21.
On Thursday, it recorded a daily high of 24,836 cases, putting pressure on its overstretched hospitals and exhausted health workers.
The country is speeding up its vaccination drive for adults that began in mid-January, targeting to inoculate one million people a day.