Indonesia to get US vaccine donations amid COVID emergency

US makes pledge to Indonesia as country hits new record cases and deaths with Jakarta predicting to reach 100,000 active cases in a few days.

Four million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine from the US are heading to Indonesia, the US national security adviser has informed the Indonesian foreign minister, as the country battles record coronavirus infections and deaths that forced an emergency lockdown starting on Saturday.

In a call with Retno Marsudi on Friday, Jake Sullivan said the doses would be shipped via the COVAX global vaccine sharing programme “as soon as possible,” a White House statement said.

Sullivan said the donation “underscored the United States’ support for the people of Indonesia as they fight a surge in COVID-19 cases”.

The two officials also discussed US plans to increase assistance for Indonesia’s broader COVID-19 response efforts, the statement said.

“Sullivan highlighted the importance the Biden-Harris administration places on Indonesia, Southeast Asia and ending the pandemic more broadly and pledged continued support and high-level engagement,” the statement said.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country and has been battling one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

The nation has recorded record new infections on eight of the past 12 days, including 25,830 new cases on Friday, and a record 539 deaths.

In Jakarta province alone, Governor Anies Baswedan said in a press conference on Friday that active cases have already reached 78,000 from 27,000 in February.

Anies said that if the trend continues, the active cases could hit 100,000 in a few days.

Since the pandemic last year, Indonesia has reported a total of 2,228,938 cases and 59,534 deaths.

The surge in new cases and deaths has prompted President Joko Widodo to declare emergency restrictions on movement starting on Saturday in the island of Java and Bali. The lockdown is effective until July 20.

Competing vaccine diplomacy

Penny K Lukito, the chief of Indonesia’s food and drug agency, said earlier on Friday it authorised the Moderna vaccine for emergency use.

Meanwhile, the country’s health minister also announced on Friday that Indonesia is planning to vaccinate under-18s with the coronavirus mRNA shot jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the island of Java, home to about half of the country’s more than 270 million people, was where most outbreaks with the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 occurred. The variant was first identified in India.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is seen as 84 percent effective, even with the Delta variant, after two doses, but only 34 percent effective with only one dose, according to a report by the US website NBC Boston.

Moderna also announced on Tuesday that its vaccine showed promise against the Delta variant, based on a study conducted on blood serum from eight participants obtained one week after they received the second dose of the vaccine.

The company said the vaccine was far more effective in producing antibodies against the Delta variant than it was against the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Indonesia has relied mainly on the vaccine from China’s Sinovac, but has been looking to diversify supply sources.

Washington has been competing with Beijing to deepen geopolitical clout through so-called vaccine diplomacy, although it has said it is not sharing vaccines to secure favours or extract concessions, but to save lives and end the pandemic.

The Biden administration pledged last month to share an initial 80 million US-made vaccines globally amid concern about the disparity in vaccination rates between advanced and developing countries.

It has already announced plans to provide vaccines to other Southeast Asian countries – the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, and Cambodia.

It has also said it will buy 500 million Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to distribute to the African Union and 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters