With Beijing’s help, Jakarta plans to produce 50 million doses of anti-COVID vaccine
by Mathias Hariyadi

The companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm will provide the basics for the drug. Some 1,620 Indonesian volunteers are being tested. Since July, China has been testing the vaccine on medical staff and border officials. With millions of citizens vaccinated, the government of Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hopes to jumpstart the economy.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Thanks to cooperation with China, Indonesia will produce 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, this according to Bambang Heriyanto, Corporate Secretary of state-owned PT Bio Farma.

Last Thursday, during a visit to the China’s Hainan island, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi announced the signing of two preliminary agreements with Sinovac Biotech.

The Chinese company will provide the basics to produce 40 million doses of the drug. Another 10 million will be produced with the help of China’s Sinopharm as well as G42 Healthcare, a pharmaceutical company based in the United Arab Emirates.

The Chinese vaccine will be made available to PT Bio Farma by November. Production will then start in Bandung (West Java), in January at the latest, as soon as a third round of clinical trials is completed with 1,620 volunteers, including West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, who will be vaccinated tomorrow.

Zheng Zhongwei, director of the National Health Commission’s (NHC’s) science and technology development centre, said yesterday that the coronavirus vaccine has been tested since July on a select group of workers, including medical staff and border inspection officials.

Chinese authorities noted that the vaccine has shown no contraindications.

Yesterday Indonesia, the nation most affected by the pandemic in Southeast Asia, reported 2,032 new cases, bringing the total to more than 153,000 with 6,680 deaths.

The spread of pulmonary illness has prompted the government to impose a lockdown, which has brought the country’s economy to its knees.

In the second quarter of 2020, GDP contracted by 5.3 per cent, the first time in more than 20 years. Analysts estimate that it will shrink by 2 per cent in 2020; last year, it grew by 5 per cent.

According to Dahlan Iskan, Indonesia's Minister for State-owned enterprises under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004-2014), administering the vaccine to millions of people will boost economic recovery, especially if the first to benefit are industrial workers.