Friday, September 11, 2020

In push for mass immunization, frontline warriors prioritized by Fardah

Jakarta, Sept 12, 2020 (ANTARA) - As many as 111 doctors, including specialists, have succumbed to the novel coronavirus as of September 11, 2020 in the country while battling on the frontlines against the virus that has affected over 200 thousand Indonesians.

Frontline doctors and paramedics have time and again demonstrated their dedication, professionalism, and hard work in fighting the invisible enemy and saving lives ever since the government announced the country's first COVID-19 cases on March 2, 2020.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has extended his condolences to the families of the fallen heroes and lauded their hard work and diligence in fighting COVID-19 infections, which have far from flattened so far.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has continued to increase in several regions in the country, leading to many hospitals filling up and healthcare workers working incessantly. 

To cut the chain of the virus spread, Jokowi has urged Indonesians to be disciplined in observing health protocols, particularly, wearing masks, washing hands with soap, and maintaining physical distancing, to ensure hospitals and paramedics do not get overwhelmed by the spike in COVID-19 cases.

The government has also urged medical workers and hospitals to remain disciplined in implementing work shifts and restricted working hours since they are, in fact, the last resort for those suffering from COVID-19, a presidential spokesman, Fadjroel Rachman, said.

The government has provided complete protective health gear and incentives to frontline doctors and paramedics to ensure their protection, he claimed. 

In the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indonesian government has implemented three strategies for ensuring the mass availability of COVID-19 vaccines. The first is working towards procuring vaccines produced by foreign parties across the world.

The second aims at promoting research and production collaborations of state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma, universities, as well as domestic and foreign institutions, while the third approach is supporting the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology's indigenous vaccine development efforts. 

The President has formed a National Team for the Acceleration of COVID-19 Vaccine Development and installed Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, as the head of its steering team.

Healthcare workers are Indonesia's strength and they are the ones who will conduct immunizations or mass vaccinations at the start of next year or the end of 2020. Hence, they must be protected first, according to the government.

As it secures and plans vaccine supply, the government is giving top priority to vaccinating about 1.5 million medical personnel, according to Erick Thohir, chairperson of the Committee for COVID-19 Handling and National Economic Recovery.

"It must be ensured that these 1.5 million (healthcare workers) receive the vaccine first, as they are at the forefront of immunization or mass vaccination," Thohir, concurrently the state-owned enterprises (BUMN) minister, stated after meeting with the executive board of the Indonesian Doctors Association (PB IDI) and the Indonesian National Nurses Association (PPNI) in Jakarta on September 3, 2020.

The minister said he believes that the data from IDI and PPNI is crucial to ensuring that the medical teams on the frontlines are accorded top priority.

He also stated that vaccinations will be carried out under two schemes: government assistance and independent vaccines.

The government plans to provide COVID-19 vaccines to people free of charge by 2021, said Thohir.

The plan is to make free vaccines available to the public by utilizing the state budget and using the national healthcare system (BPJS) data as the basis for vaccine administration, he said.

However, to ease the burden on the state budget, which is experiencing a widening deficit, he has asked those who can afford it to pay for the vaccines themselves.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has collaborated with Sinovac from China and G42 of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to procure vaccines even as research for the development of the indigenous Red and White continues at home.

G42, which will partner with Kimia Farma, is expected to deliver 10 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this year.

Bio Farma is collaborating with Sinovac and has committed to producing 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year, and 250 million doses by 2021.

President director of PT Bio Farma, Honesti Basyir, has assured that Indonesians will be prioritized during the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine after it passes the clinical trials and permission for its production is secured.

As per calculations, 160 million Indonesians will be prioritized to receive the vaccine originating from China's Sinovac. Each individual will be administered two doses of the vaccination.

In the meantime, Hartarto has outlined the vaccine procurement target for Indonesia, stating the country will obtain 290 million COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, of which 30 million are targeted to be procured this year.

“The government has conducted several activities to obtain vaccines. This is also the result of diplomacy conducted by the foreign affairs minister, under which Sinovac is preparing 30 million early-stage vaccines and 290 million (doses) for next year,” Hartarto stated on September 10 this year.

The minister said he believes the pandemic will continue until next year, and so will the countermeasures, through the production of both vaccines and medicines.

Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro had earlier projected that the locally developed Red and White vaccine would be ready for mass production in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021.

The indigenous vaccine will complement other COVID-19 vaccines, which are being produced in collaboration with foreign companies, including Sinovac and G42, Brodjonegoro remarked after providing an update on the vaccine’s development to President Joko Widodo recently.

The Red and White vaccine is being developed by a domestic consortium and is named after the Indonesian flag.

Before mass production can begin in the fourth quarter of 2021, the vaccine needs to undergo several stages of testing — animal testing by the end of 2020, and production formulation for clinical test stages 1, 2, and 3 in early 2021.

The National Agency of Food and Drug Control (BPOM) will check the product for safety. Once the agency declares the vaccine safe and effective in boosting immunity, PT Bio Farma Persero will commence mass production.

As the vaccine is based on a virus strain found in Indonesia, it is expected to work effectively to improve the immunity of Indonesians against the SARS CoV-2 virus.

The vaccine, which is being jointly developed by the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, several universities, and research institutions, has reached 50-percent completion.

The development of the Red and White vaccine holds importance in the context of the country becoming self-reliant in vaccine production. (INE)



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