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Indonesians prepare to learn to live with COVID-19

Indonesians prepare to learn to live with COVID-19

Living with COVID-19 (ANTARA/Heru Suyitno)

The Indonesian government has been racing to inoculate over 208 million citizens as the nation prepares to learn to live with COVID-19, which has continued to linger since early 2020.

The nation, which rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program on January 13, 2021, has administered 89.8 million first shots, accounting for 43.1 percent of the target, and 50.4 million second shots, or 24.2 percent of the target, as of September 29, 2021.

According to the task force for COVID-19 handling, Indonesia added 2,057 daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the tally to 4,211,460, while total recoveries reached 4,031,099 and deaths touched 141,709.

Indonesia is listed among the top 10 countries with the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world, Reisa Broto Asmoro, spokesperson and ambassador for the Adaptation of New Habits, pointed out.

The achievement has exceeded the vaccination target of 10 percent of the population of each country by September 2021, 40 percent of the population in each country by the end of 2021, and 70 percent of the world's population by mid-2022, as set by the World Health Organization (WHO), she noted.

Globally, 43.9 percent of the world's population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, she said. A total of 6.03 billion doses have been administered and 28.15 million vaccines provided to the global population each day, she said.

She revealed that as of September 24, 2021, Indonesia has obtained more than 273.6 million vaccine doses through direct purchase, global cooperation through the Covax facility, and donations from countries, including the United States, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, and France.

From January to late September 2021, the government has distributed about 200 million doses across Indonesia, she said.

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In the beginning, Indonesia relied on the CoronaVac vaccine purchased from China’s Sinovac pharmaceutical company, Asmoro noted. The vaccine was purchased both in finished form and in bulk for further processing by Indonesia’s state-owned Bio Farma, which has also established cooperation for CoronaVac production with Sinovac, she said.

But, Indonesians now have more choices in terms of COVID-19 vaccines such as AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinopharm, and Janssen, she observed. However, they must not be picky about vaccines, she added.
"The best vaccine is the one that is currently available. There is no need to wait and be selective," Asmoro said.

All of the vaccines being administered in the country have received emergency-use authorization (EUA) from the Indonesian Drug and Food Monitoring Agency (BPOM), she pointed out.

The latest EUA was given for emergency use of US-made Janssen and China-manufactured Convidecia COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia, Asmoro informed.

Meanwhile, BPOM chief Penny K. Lukito expressed the hope that the presence of the two types of COVID-19 vaccines will increasingly help the government boost vaccination coverage to achieve herd immunity.

PT Integrated Health Indonesia (IHI) has registered the Janssen vaccine with BPOM for EUA that necessitates it to take responsibility for the safety, efficacy, and quality of the vaccine, she said.

Meanwhile, PT Bio Farma has registered the Convidencia vaccine with BPOM, she added.

As part of the process for the issuance of an EUA, the BPOM had conducted intensive testing on the safety, efficacy, and quality of the two vaccines as it did for other COVID-19 vaccines earlier, she informed.

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The BPOM had earlier granted EUA for seven COVID-19 vaccines: CoronaVac (Sinovac), COVID-19 Bio Farma, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Moderna, Comirnaty (Pfizer and BioNTech), and Sputnik-V.

Indonesia is aiming to administer 2.7 million doses per day by November and achieve its target of vaccinating around 70 percent of its total population by the end of this year.

The government’s hard work in implementing the nationwide vaccination program by involving various stakeholders has placed Indonesia sixth in terms of global vaccination.

"Indonesia ranks sixth globally, but we must remain vigilant and try our best to expedite the vaccination rate," Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, said.

He assured that the government will continue to administer vaccines, including to the general public, especially to those 12 years and over, pregnant women, and elderly people.

The acceleration of vaccination is expected to push the public to return to normal activities, thereby encouraging economic recovery, he said.

Vaccination, as one of the government's strategies for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, however, must be accompanied by strict discipline on part of the people in terms of adherence to the 3Ms (wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining physical distance), and strengthening of the 3Ts (tracing, tracking, and treatment).

Furthermore, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has asked Indonesians to learn to live with COVID-19, saying no one knows when the pandemic will end.

"We have to start learning to coexist with COVID-19 because it will not completely disappear from our country," the President said while reviewing the implementation of mass vaccinations in Aceh province on September 16, 2021.

For this purpose, high levels of vaccination are crucial, because vaccine activates one’s immune system without making one sick, he added. Many dangerous infectious diseases can be prevented in this simple and effective way, he pointed out.

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