Jakarta. Indonesia has injected at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to 140.9 million people, or more than half of its population, on Thursday, passing a key milestone in its vaccination drive amid renewed concerns about slowing vaccination rate and a new virus variant Omicron.
Data from the Ministry of Health showed the country has also managed to inject total doses of vaccines to 97.3 million people and more than 1.2 million booster doses to health and the pandemic frontline workers. In total, Indonesia has delivered 238.1 million vaccine shots to its population by Thursday.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had targetted 270 million vaccine doses must be delivered by the year-end. As the daily vaccination rate slowed down, this target was becoming less likely to be met in the past few weeks.
The ministry data showed the country only managed to vaccinate 1.38 million people per day on average for the past seven days. It administered more than 2 million doses a day during its peak.
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Health, acknowledged that Covid-19 vaccination rates have decreased over the past three weeks.
Nadia said prospective vaccine recipients, especially the elderly, were becoming selective over which vaccine they received. Most are waiting for the arrival of more Sinovac doses rather than turning to the other readily available vaccines. "Many regions are waiting to get the Sinovac vaccine," Nadia said on Wednesday.
Although it has lower efficacy rates than other vaccines, many still sought the Sinovac vaccine, believing its side would also be milder.
Yet, because Sinovac supplies were more widely used in the first half of 2021, its stocks have now been significantly depleted. She said that Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca made the most of the 128 million vaccines that Indonesia is currently in stock.
Many have grown weary over the more potent vaccines, as many of their recipients have reportedly undergone adverse side effects.
However, Nadia assures that side effects following vaccination are normal immune system reactions. She hopes that regions throughout Indonesia can accelerate their vaccination rates with the available vaccines in supply.
With the Omicron variant fears looming in the distance, and new measures to ensure Indonesia does not enter the third wave, vaccination focus is shifting towards the elderly.
According to Nadia, only 53 percent of all elderly have received the first dose of the vaccine, and 34 percent have gotten their second dose. Out of over 20 million elderly in Indonesia, only 11 million have been vaccinated.
Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that the elderly should be 'forced' to immediately receive a vaccine dose to prevent a new wave of transmission and keep themselves safe.
He identified them as the most vulnerable group when exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and with the greatest risk of being hospitalized for treatment.
"Vaccination rates must be accelerated so that if we enter [the third wave], the immunity already exists. Our priority focuses on the elderly over 60 years old," Budi said on Wednesday.
"So I ask for the help of my friends. It is difficult to urge the elderly into getting their vaccinations," Budi said. "A lot of people don't want to be vaccinated- they don't believe that the vaccine can protect them. As a result, they are prone to infection and may even infect other people."