We must be prepared to face the new variant next year
Jakarta (ANTARA) - The government will conduct further studies on the COVID-19 immunization of children and the elderly as part of efforts to strengthen the development of antibodies in the community, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin has informed.

"One of the initiatives was the President's direction to vaccinate children under six years old. We will explore that direction. There was a vaccine for children under six years old, namely pediatric vaccination," he said at a press conference after an evaluation meeting on community activity restrictions (PPKM) in Jakarta on Tuesday.

He informed that his ministry is currently studying the option of providing COVID-19 shots to vulnerable groups who have not been able to take vaccinations. The study includes the elderly and comorbid patients.

The plan is to vaccinate groups with low antibody levels by the end of 2022. In addition, the government is increasing the dose of COVID-19 vaccine boosters for the elderly and comorbid groups according to their regions.

This effort is continuously being pursued to maintain antibodies in the community, which can decrease six months after vaccination, Sadikin said.

"We will immediately provide an alternative to the existing vaccines as an effort to increase immunity level and also to maintain the level of immunity in our population. We must be prepared to face the new variant next year," he added.

According to the minister, a decrease in antibodies cannot be underestimated since virus mutations will continue to occur, even if the symptoms they cause are milder compared to the previous variants.

"Virus mutation will prolong the host's life, that is why the virus mutation will be weaker than the previous one. The host wants to prolong its life by mutating. That is why Omicron is weaker than Delta," he explained.

The government has valid data on vaccination coverage, he said. It is hoped that the vaccine distribution will prioritize the right targets.

He said he hopes the vaccination effort will help maintain people's antibody levels since the country will face the possibility of a fresh COVID-19 virus mutation in early 2023.

"We will prioritize vaccination based on the last time recipients received their vaccine. People who have not completed their vaccination in a long time will have lower antibody (levels). We will prioritize them," Sadikin added.

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Translator: Hreeloita Dharma S, Resinta S
Editor: Sri Haryati
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