Indonesia receives first COVID-19 vaccines from China after close 'hour by hour' communication of two FM ministers
Published: Dec 07, 2020 05:03 PM

Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: VCG

Indonesia received its first shipment of 1.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from China on Sunday to prepare for a mass inoculation program across Indonesia upon approval of Indonesia's Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM). 

The number will continue to increase in line with the needs for handling the pandemic, which has killed more than 17,740 in Indonesia, said President Joko Widodo on Sunday via a television speech.

The vaccine was developed by China's leading producer Sinovac and has been clinically tested in Bandung, capital of Indonesia's West Java province, since last August. 

The Indonesian government plans to bring in further 15 million doses of semi-finished vaccine products this month, while as many as 30 million semi-finished doses are expected to arrive in January, according to the president.

The Global Times learnt from Sinovac on Monday that the doses are a proportionally diluted vaccine concentration that will be further processed by Indonesian state-owned vaccine producer Bio Farma to package it in Schering bottles or syringe as requested.

"For the cooperation with Sinovac, we have continued to carry out intensive coordination with the Chinese authorities, especially with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. In the last one to two weeks, communication has not been carried out day by day, but hour by hour," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi at a press conference on Monday.

Indonesia has also closely worked with Chinese company Sinovac on co-developing an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine in the current Phase III clinical trials involving more than 1,620 volunteers in Jakarta.

Marsudi also expressed appreciation for the Chinese government and authorities for their cooperation.

"The role of the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing in bridging communication with Chinese authorities and Sinovac is of course also very vital. In the process of sending the Sinovac vaccine, all procedures both in Indonesia and in China are carried out with great care and in accordance with applicable regulations," he explained.

The foreign minister added diplomacy work will be continued to oversee the next shipment plan.

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also exploring cooperation with British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca and multilateral cooperation through the COVAX Facility, a WHO-coordinated pooled procurement mechanism for new COVID-19 vaccines.

Sinovac told the Global Times on Monday that the cooperation with Indonesia is direct through the two sides but not via COVAX.

Indonesia has sought emergency authorization to start a mass vaccination campaign by the end of the year, Reuters reported in mid-November. If approved for general use, the Sinovac vaccines would be produced domestically by Indonesia's state-owned pharmaceutical firm PT Bio Farma, the Bangkok Post reported.

Bilateral cooperation on vaccines follows a stable and transparent path, said Dino Kusnadi, the Indonesian Embassy's deputy chief of mission, at the China-ASEAN EXPO in the end of November, adding that Indonesia stresses vaccine safety as a top priority while expecting an affordable price. 

Global Times