12/16/2020, 13.59
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Pres Widodo allays fears over Chinese COVID-19 vaccine by getting vaccinated first, says it will be free

by Mathias Hariyadi

In recent weeks, many Indonesians have expressed doubts over the effectiveness, possible side effects, and costs of the Chinese vaccine. The president wants to dispel the doubts by being the “first person to be given the first dose”. His words reassure public opinion and fuel optimism.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo plans to get a shot of China’s COVID-19 Sinovac vaccine in order to sweep aside any doubts Indonesians may have about the effectiveness and possible side effects of the drug.

“I will be the first person to be given the first dose of the vaccine,” says the president in a video message posted on the main social media designed to reassure his fellow Indonesians.

In it, the president explains that he is making this official announcement in order to reassure the public that the Sinovac product meets all the standards.

“I want to tell you once more that I will be the first to receive one of the first shots available” because the very first production “meets the standards” required to protect public health.

Unlike the president, many Indonesians remain sceptical and concerned about the effectiveness and safety of the product.

Precisely for this reason Widodo took this unprecedented step in response to appeals from activists and civil society groups who urge the country’s top figures to raise awareness on the importance of vaccination in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

The president also said that the vaccines will be free for most people, a “novelty” compared to previous past media reports suggesting that people would have to pay for the vaccine.

Widodo's words immediately had a wide echo in the country and fuelled optimism. Ms. Suliyah, from Semarang, plans to get vaccinated with husband when the first vaccines become available.

“The president's announcement,” she told AsiaNews, “gives me confidence” after days of doubts about the vaccine’s effectiveness. What is more, for the homemaker and her husband, who retired 30 years ago, cost is a concern.

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