Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Indonesian doctors wary as Chinese Sinovac jabs start

Many health professionals want more information to address their concerns over how long immunity lasts and how it lessens over time.

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Indonesian doctors have suffered one of the world’s highest death rates from Covid-19, with at least 259 having succumbed as of this week.

But that is not stopping some doctors from voicing concerns over the national vaccination campaign just being started.

Nearly 1.5 million health workers are first in line to be immunised as Indonesia becomes the first country outside China to start mass vaccinations using Chinese company Sinovac Biotech’s jab CoronaVac.

“I’m not rejecting vaccines, I’m rejecting Sinovac’s,” said Yusdeny Lanasakti, an East Java doctor.

Indonesia approved the Chinese jab for emergency use based on interim data showing 65.3% efficacy. A Turkish trial showed 91.25% and a Brazilian trial 50.4%.

Bambang Heriyanto, corporate secretary of Bio Farma, the Indonesian company involved in the trials, said the Brazilian data still topped the World Health Organization’s benchmark of 50%.

Dominicus Husada, a pediatrician in East Java, told Reuters he was ready for vaccination but added, “There are a few aspects that have not been answered, like how long immunity lasts and how it lessens over time.”

Doctors want more information to assuage their concerns, said Tri Maharani, another East Java doctor, who has already had Covid-19 and so will not get the vaccine.

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health ministry official, said there would be no sanctions for doctors who refused vaccination, but urged medical workers not to be wary.

Harif Fadhillah, who heads the Indonesian Nurses Association told Reuters most nurses are ready for vaccination.

The nation’s general scepticism over vaccines is an additional challenge for Indonesia in its plan to inoculate more than 180 million people living across thousands of islands over the next 15 months.

A December poll showed just 37% of Indonesians were willing to be vaccinated while 40% would consider it and 17% refuse.

To try to spur participation in the campaign, President Joko Widodo got the Sinovac jab on Wednesday.

But Agnes Christie Supangkat, a doctor in Jakarta is not convinced and will not be getting vaccinated.

She told Reuters, “It seems it is being rushed to suppress the pandemic, but only a few trials have been done.”

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