Indonesia expects a slowdown in COVID-19 inoculations next month as India delays shipments of AstraZeneca vaccines, its health minister said on Saturday.
India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot made by Serum Institute of India (SII), prioritising domestic demand as infections rise, Reuters reported earlier this week.
India's move will affect supplies to the GAVI/WHO-backed global COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, through which 64 lower-income countries including Indonesia are supposed to get doses from SII.
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Indonesia, which is suffering one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, was scheduled to receive 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX programme on March 22 and 7.8 million doses next month, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a media briefing.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"This definitely will affect (the vaccination process) because in April we only have around 7 million doses from Sinovac," Budi said, referring to the Chinese maker of rival vaccines which has also been supplying Indonesia.
As Indonesia is injecting around 500,000 doses per day, the supply for April will be used within around two weeks, he added.
Indonesia had received 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the start of the month and had started their rollout this week.
Southeast Asia's biggest country launched its immunisation programme in January and aims to reach 181.5 million people within a year.
As of Saturday, roughly 3.2 million people had been fully vaccinated, official data showed. Some 1.49 million people have been infected in Indonesia since the start of the pandemic and more than 40,000 killed.
"We are still lobbying GAVI in the hope of securing even a small number of doses from AstraZeneca in April," Budi said.
He said GAVI, an alliance of countries, companies and charities that promotes vaccination, had indicated to the government that shipments may resume in May but this was not yet certain.