Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Indonesian government announced the rollout of second booster vaccinations on Friday (July 29, 2022) for those who have completed six months since their first booster shot.

The second booster vaccination is meant to provide additional protection to individuals, particularly healthcare workers, amid the emergence of BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants, which cause mild to no symptoms.

The Task Force for COVID-19 Handling has called for continued public vigilance amid increased transmission of COVID-19, with the number of new daily cases crossing six thousand.

"Last time, Indonesia saw a figure above six thousand was in March 2022," the task force’s spokesperson, Wiku Adisasmito, said on July 29.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin earlier emphasized the importance of the booster vaccine to strengthen immunity against COVID-19.

People who have not received at least the first vaccine dose are 30 times more likely to be hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 compared to those who have received the booster dose, he highlighted.

"People who have only been vaccinated once are about 20 times more likely to be hospitalized. People who have only been vaccinated twice are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to those who have received the booster dose," he remarked.

The Ministry of Health has issued Circular Letter Number HK.02.02/C/3615/2022 regarding the second booster COVID-19 vaccination of healthcare workers as priority recipients because they are in the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.

Vaccine brands that have obtained emergency-use authorization (EUA) from the National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM) will be used for the second booster vaccinations, depending on their availability, according to the ministry’s director-general of disease prevention and control, Maxi Rein Rondonuwu.

COVID-19 vaccines that are currently being used in Indonesia include CoronaVac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna.

Indonesia has been developing its indigenous COVID-19 vaccine called the Merah Putih since May 12, 2020. Merah Putih has been undergoing the third phase clinical trials since June 28, 2022.

"We are optimistic that the clinical trial of the Merah Putih vaccine can be used for the fourth dose," main researcher for the Merah Putih vaccine at Surabaya-based Airlangga University, Professor Fedik Abdul Rantam, said on July 11.

The research team has selected 1,100 volunteers from a total of 4,005 required as clinical trial subjects. They comprise one group of volunteers who will receive the comparison vaccine and two groups of volunteers who will receive the Merah Putih vaccine.

"Phase three of the clinical trial process is ongoing. So far, the results are good. Currently, 1,100 volunteers have been recruited," Rantam said.

The production of Merah Putih vaccine is targeted to start by the end of 2022 after an emergency-use permit is obtained from the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM), he added.

In the meantime, the rollout of second booster vaccinations for health workers has been approved by the Indonesian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ITAGI).

Based on the Health Ministry’s data, the number of healthcare workers targeted for vaccinations is 1,468,764.

So far, 138.43 percent of the targeted recipients have received the first vaccine dose, 134.99 percent of the targeted health workers have received the second dose, and 114.28 percent have received the third vaccine or the first booster dose.

The Indonesian Nurses Association (PPNI) has asked its members, who account for half of the 1.9 million healthcare workers in Indonesia, to prepare themselves for the second booster shot.

"To all members, let us strengthen our resilience by maintaining personal health and complying with the health protocols at work or wherever we are," PPNI chairman Harif Fadillah said on July 29.

He pointed to an increase in the number of healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 lately.

Based on PPNI's internal monitoring, as many as 1,736 nurses in Indonesia have been exposed to COVID-19, with most contracting Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5, which are currently accounting for most of the COVID-19 cases in Indonesia.

As of July 27, at least 55,275,438 Indonesians have received the first booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Task Force for COVID-19 Handling has reported.

The task force's data shows that 26.54 percent of the 208,265,720 targeted recipients have been administered the first booster shot so far.

The number of first dose recipients has reached 202,333,791, or 97.15 percent of the targeted population, and the number of second dose recipients has touched 169,936,472, or 81.6 percent of the targeted population. Meanwhile, on July 30, the task force logged 5,398 fresh COVID-19 cases.

According to an epidemiologist from Griffith University, Dicky Budiman, the provision of the fourth dose for at-risk groups is the right step.

"High-risk groups include people with comorbidities or the elderly, and even some people with disabilities," he added.

The high-risk group includes doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, teachers, and officers at the country's entry points, such as airports and sea ports.

The vaccine dose is also essential for marginalized communities, Budiman said.

The Indonesian authorities have urged citizens to strictly implement the health protocols by wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, and maintaining a safe distance because COVID-19 transmission is still on, with the disease even spreading faster.

The government, however, is optimistic that infections are still under control.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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