Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Indonesia accelerates vaccination drive to achieve herd immunity by Fardah

 Jakarta, Aug 31, 2021 (Antara) - Indonesia has seen a continuous decline in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases lately thanks to the enforcement of strict public activity restrictions (PPKM), in Java and Bali Islands in particular, since July 3, 2021.

Besides, the authorities have also carried out massive efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic through increased testing, close-contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine as well as enforcement of health protocols to break the chain of virus transmission.

After nearly two months of implementing the semi-lockdown, the country recorded 5,436 new cases on August 30, 2021, bringing the total COVID-19 tally to 4,079,267, while the daily deaths stood at 568, taking the death toll to 132,491.

The figures showed a sharp decline compared to 56,757 fresh confirmed cases recorded on July 15, 2021, as Indonesia's daily COVID-19 cases hit a record due to the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID-19. The highest daily deaths were recorded at 2,069 on July 27, 2021.

Despite the decline in new cases, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) on August 30, 2021, announced that once again PPKM would be extended until September 6, 2021.

Several regions have seen improvement in COVID-19 handling, hence the government has lowered the PPKM level from 4 to 3 for Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi (Jabodetabek), Surabaya, Bandung, Malang, and Solo, while Semarang's level has been reduced to 2.

In general, the COVID-19 handling in Java and Bali has shown improvement, hence the government will loosen PPKM in stages, the President said.

Despite the relaxation of the PPKM implementation, the public has been told to remain vigilant and adhere to the health protocols, including wearing face masks and keeping a safe distance.

Six Indonesian provinces, however, have been asked to remain alert for the Delta variant, which is very contagious and fatal, by intensifying testing and tracing capabilities.

The six provinces with the highest prevalence of the Delta variant are Aceh, North Sumatra, Lampung, West Java, East Nusa Tenggara, and Central Sulawesi, according to the ministry's spokesperson for COVID-19 vaccination, Dr. Siti Nadia Tarmizi.

In Jakarta, the government has started to allow schools and places of worship in green zones to reopen, with attendance capped at 50 percent. Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has claimed that at least 85 percent of teachers have been inoculated, while the remaining 15 percent of teachers have comorbidities.

Considering vaccination the key to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the government is determined to accelerate the implementation of the vaccination drive across the country, with healthcare workers given priority in the program, which was rolled out on January 13, 2021, by mainly using CoronaVac bought from China's Sinovac pharmaceutical company.

Out of the total population of over 270 million, the government is aiming to vaccinate 208 million Indonesians to build herd immunity against the virus.

According to the COVID-19 Response Task Force, a total of 34,702,821 Indonesians have received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose as of August 28, 2021, while the number of Indonesians receiving their first COVID-19 jab has reached 61,222,258.

As of August 23, 2021, Indonesia has secured supplies of about 130 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. And the government has so far distributed at least 4.8 million doses of CoronaVac bought from Sinovac, 85.9 million doses of Sinovac vaccine produced by Bandung-based Bio Farma, 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 15.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 7.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, and 499,886 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to regions across Indonesia.

In August 2021 alone, the country is expected to receive some 70 million doses, and in December, the number is expected to increase to 80 million doses, which will help meet the target of vaccinating two million people a day.

Indonesia currently has six brands of vaccines available in the country, with five being produced by foreign manufacturers and one made domestically. The vaccines comprise CoronaVac, Moderna, Sinopharm, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca, as well as Bio Farma's vaccine that has been produced under a collaboration with Sinovac.

Moderna, which was donated by the US government through the COVAX Facility, has been partly given to fully vaccinated healthcare workers as a third or booster vaccine.

Pfizer is the latest brand to arrive in Indonesia, with 1.5 million of the 50 million doses ordered reaching the country on August 19, 2021.

In the meantime, an epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia (UI), Pandu Riono, has reminded that herd immunity against COVID-19 can only be achieved if the effectiveness of vaccines is above 80 percent.

Herd immunity would be difficult to achieve if the vaccines being used only have an effectiveness of 55 to 60 percent, he said.

Moreover, the coronavirus has continued to mutate, he noted. The Delta variant is able to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, including those with the highest effectiveness in the world, he added.

It will be hard to achieve herd immunity, but still, vaccines are important because they could reduce mortality and the severity of cases, he added.

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