China supplies more than 80% of Indonesia’s vaccine supply

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China supplies more than 80% of Indonesia's vaccine supply
People receive a dose of the Chinese Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a mall in Surabaya, Indonesia, Sept. 23, 2021.

According to officials, China supplies slightly more than 80% of COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia, and a fifth of all vaccines exported by the superpower have gone to the Southeast Asian country.

According to the Beijing-based research firm Bridge Consulting, Indonesia is the largest recipient of Chinese vaccines, which, according to one analyst, does not reflect Jakarta’s much-touted “free and active” foreign policy.

According to Xiao Qian, China’s ambassador to Indonesia, Jakarta received another two million doses of the vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech on Friday, this time as a donation from Beijing and the pharmaceutical company.

“Sinovac and Sinopharm have sent 215 million doses of vaccine to Indonesia so far,” Xiao said during an online news conference.

“It accounts for nearly 20% of all vaccines exported by China during the same period, and more than 80% of total vaccines obtained by Indonesia.”

According to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Indonesia has received 273 million doses of vaccines from a variety of drug manufacturers around the world. These include Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Janssen doses.

According to Retno, international cooperation is critical to bringing the pandemic to an end.

“Our diplomatic machinery is still at work, establishing cooperation in various forms to ensure that our vaccine needs are met,” she told reporters.

According to international relations expert Teuku Rezasyah, with 215 million of 273 million vaccine doses coming from China, Indonesia’s diplomatic machinery appears to have put most of its eggs in one basket.

“Reliance on a single supplier is not good,” Rezasyah, a lecturer at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Bangladesh and Thailand are examples of this.

The South Asian country signed a large vaccine contract with an Indian company, but was left without vaccines for months after the manufacturer halted exports following a horrific second wave of COVID-19 in India.

Closer to home, Thailand’s over-reliance on AstraZeneca’s vaccine, owing to a contract awarded to a local manufacturer to produce it, proved to be its undoing when the company was unable to deliver enough or on time. The country is still lagging behind in its immunization campaign.

According to Rezasyah, Indonesia should have cast a wider net for vaccines from the start.

“We should have started with an international tender,” he said.

“China recognizes that the [vaccine] business is extremely profitable and long-term. It has been made easier by the fact that Indonesia and China have a strategic partnership.”

He believes that Indonesia should collaborate more broadly with other countries in order to obtain vaccine supplies.

That would also be consistent with the foundation of its foreign policy, according to Rezasyah of the archipelago nation that is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Is Sinovac’s efficacy dwindling?

Furthermore, research published in August in Indonesia revealed that the Sinovac vaccine, dubbed CoronaVac, provided protection against COVID-19 – a clinical trial revealed a 65 percent efficacy rate.

However, the Ministry of Health’s research and development wing discovered that the vaccine was less effective in protecting against death and severe illness in the April-June period, compared to the previous three months.

According to Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokeswoman for the government’s COVID-19 task force, the vaccine prevented 79 percent of deaths from April to June, down from 95 percent in January to March.

It prevented 53% of hospitalizations from April to June, down from 74% from January to March.

Siti did not explain the drop, but infections that led to the highly contagious Delta variant-related second wave could have started in April or June.

According to data from the health ministry, as of Friday, more than 84.8 million people in the country had received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 47.7 million fully vaccinated.

Nearly 900,000 of those fully vaccinated with the Sinovac jabs received a third, non-Sinovac dose.

In July, Indonesia announced plans to give a third vaccine shot to many of the 1.47 million medical workers who had received Sinovac, using a jab developed by Moderna, an American pharmaceutical company, to protect them from the Delta strain.

LaporCOVID-19, an Indonesian volunteer group that monitors pandemic data, reported at the time that some health workers who had been fully vaccinated with Sinovac had died from COVID-19. That same month, Thailand made a similar announcement.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that the country’s Food and Drug Monitoring Agency has issued an emergency use authorization for the Sputnik vaccine, Indonesia has yet to receive any of the 20 million doses promised by Russia.

“I can’t respond in detail because this is still being negotiated,” Russian Ambassador to Jakarta Lyudmila Vorobieva said during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

“There are some formalities that must be completed.”

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