The booster vaccinations, which are free and not mandatory, aim to offer additional protection to individuals amid the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, notably Omicron.
"I have decided that the COVID-19 booster vaccine will be free of charge for all Indonesians because once again I emphasize that people's safety is our first priority," President Joko Widodo said while announcing the booster shot drive on January 11.
"The government will start administering the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from January 12. We will prioritize the vaccine for the elderly and vulnerable groups," he added.
The booster vaccine is considered important for increasing the community's immunity in view of the fact that the coronavirus has continued to mutate, he said.
However, after receiving the booster vaccine, people must remain disciplined in implementing the health protocols, such as maintaining distance, wearing face masks, and washing hands, he added.
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Based on data from the Ministry of Health, as of January 12, a total of 171,056,204 Indonesians have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (82.13 percent of the target) and 117,333,660 people have received the second dose (56.34 percent of the target).
In addition, 1,328,659 (90.46 percent) of health workers have been administered the booster vaccine. Overall, the government is targeting to fully vaccinate 208,265,720 Indonesians out of the nation’s population of over 273 million.
Earlier, Indonesia’s COVID-19 Task Force spokesperson and expert team chief, Wiku Bakti Bawono Adisasmito, explained that the government decided to offer booster vaccinations amid concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
However, the present focus is on getting people to complete the first and second dose of vaccinations, he informed.
"If the immunity rate is decreasing, then we will use the third dose. Make sure that the first and second doses are completed," he stressed.
Moreover, vaccination is not the only solution to prevent the spread of the new variant in Indonesia, Adisasmito emphasized.
"I would like to remind the people that there are three methods to collectively prevent COVID-19 infection, namely stringent health protocols; 3T which stands for testing, tracing, and treatment; and vaccinations," he said.
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The National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM) has issued emergency-use authorization (EUA) for five COVID-19 vaccines for use as booster shots.
The five vaccines are Sinovac’s CoronaVac, reproduced by state-run vaccine manufacturer PT Bio Farma, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Zifivax.
"The five vaccines have received the EUA through an evaluation process from the drug or vaccine expert team and have fulfilled the existing criteria," BPOM head Penny K. Lukito said on January 10.
One additional dose of the homologous vaccine CoronaVac could be administered to people aged 18 years after six months of the primary vaccination, she informed.
The additional dose of the Pfizer vaccine for booster shots would also be given at least six months after the primary vaccination to people aged 18 years and above, according to Lukito.
The AstraZeneca vaccine could also be utilized as a booster shot, she said. According to the immunogenicity test result, utilizing the vaccine could increase antibodies by around 3.5 times, she informed.
Meanwhile, the Moderna vaccine could be used to complement the two-dose administration of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson primary vaccines, she said.
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A half dose of the vaccine with the mRNA platform could be administered as a booster after the primary vaccine, she added.
"Moderna shows 13 times the immunogenicity after the administration of the booster dose and with the subject being adults aged 18 years and above," Lukito elaborated.
Zifivax could be used as a heterologous booster for other types of vaccines, such as Sinovac or Sinopharm, with the provision interval of above six months.
"Zifivax shows an increase in neutralizing antibody titers more than 30 times," she remarked.
The research result shows that immunity response declines to below 30 percent after six months of primary vaccination, which is why the booster shot is necessary, she said.
The elderly and vulnerable groups, or those from the immunocompromised group, are those who will be prioritized for the vaccine booster, she added.
According to Health Ministry data, as of Tuesday (January 11), at least 68.60 percent of the targeted elderly population have received their first dose, and only 43.94 percent have received their second dose.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin assured that the country has adequate vaccine stocks for the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Booster vaccines have also been obtained from other nations through donations, such as through the COVAX facility and bilateral cooperation programs, he said.
According to the minister, COVAX has provided vaccine assistance for 20 percent of Indonesia's population.
"It has been confirmed that it will be increased to 30 percent of Indonesia's population, or the equivalent of 27 million people, or 54 million doses of free vaccines," he added.
"The booster vaccination is the government's commitment for protecting all Indonesian communities from the threat of COVID-19 and its variants," Sadikin added.
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