Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Indonesian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ITAGI) is considering administering an mRNA booster vaccine to Indonesian hajj and umrah travelers to Saudi Arabia. "It is being discussed whether Saudi Arabia is willing to accept a booster of the same vaccine type," ITAGI Chairwoman Sri Rezeki Hadinegoro said at a media training session on drugs and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic held by the National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM) on Tuesday.

"Like Indonesia, Saudi Arabia uses a vaccine vector that is an inactivated virus. However, the type of vaccine is Sinopharm, which is mRNA-formulated," she added.

Meanwhile, most Indonesian umrah pilgrims have taken the Sinovac vaccine, which is made with the same formula.

Hadinegoro stressed the vaccine’s provided immunity does not last long, so to restore its efficacy, the administration of an additional booster dose is required.

"We have to give the booster," she stressed, adding there were concerns from Saudi Arabian authorities that the Sinovac vaccine without an mRNA booster would weaken the immune system of umrah and hajj pilgrims when they arrive.

Related news: Limited space in Mina hindering national hajj quota increase: ministry

The ITAGI is still convincing the government of Saudi Arabia about providing the right vaccine for Indonesian umrah travelers, Hadinegoro further said, while urging the Indonesian government to conduct research on the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine as evidence to be submitted to Saudi Arabian authorities

"If we have research evidence and we can prove the pilgrims' immunity is high, I think Saudi Arabia can be sure," she further said.

“Recently, Saudi Arabia has reopened access to Indonesian umrah pilgrims in view of our improved handling of COVID-19,” Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Zainut Tauhid Sa'adi said.

The decision was the result of long and intense lobbying by the foreign minister, religious affairs minister and health minister, he added.

Related news: Umrah access for Indonesia opened due to better COVID-19 handling

Translator: Andi F, Kenzu T
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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