A volunteer participates in a Covid-19 vaccination drill in Bandung, West Java, on August 6, 2020. (Antara Photo/M Agung Rajasa)

Expert Warns Against Fast-Tracking of Covid Vaccination


OCTOBER 23, 2020

Jakarta. The Indonesian government must not be in hurry to authorize the use of a vaccine against coronavirus until there is one with proven efficacy and safety, an epidemiologist has said.

None of all the vaccine candidates being developed around the globe has passed the entire stages of clinical tests at present, including those from China, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The government should avoid the rhetoric that there is already a working vaccine for the Indonesian people, according to Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist with the University of Indonesia.

“All the available vaccines are being tested and none of them has passed the entire stages of clinical tests,” Pandu said in a recent interview.

Indonesia is one of at least five countries currently conducting the phase three clinical test of a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech. It will take until at least January next year to complete immunogenicity study and assessment of possible adverse events on the more than 1,600 volunteers who have received the trial vaccine.

It also plans to acquire Sinopharm and CanSino vaccines from the same country, as well as a vaccine developed by British multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

But Pandu said it appears that the government will pressure the Drug and Food Control Agency (BPOM) to fast-track emergency use of the vaccine.

“This is a very dangerous move because there isn’t yet a scientific agreement on which vaccine that is best for the people in terms of safety and efficacy,” he added.

He said all vaccine candidates must complete the phase three clinical trial and the results must be reviewed by international scientists and the World Health Organization before they can be approved for a large-scale use.

“The government must not be in hurry because in my opinion we are not under any emergency situation right now,” he said.

Cases are Still Climbing
Indonesia has recorded a total of 381,910 coronavirus cases including 13,077 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest Health Ministry data released on Friday.

The country has yet to reach its peak, with an average of 4,126 cases month to date. The total number of active cases stands at 63,733 or 16.7 percent of the overall cases.

More than half of infections have occurred in the most crowded island of Java.

Jakarta is bearing the brunt of the outbreak, with a total of 99,158 cases, including 2,126 deaths. It’s the only province to average more than 1,000 cases, which the capital has been enduring since last month.

East Java comes next with 50,364 cases, but it leads the national death toll with a total of 3,631 Covid-19 deaths. However, the surge is slowing in the province, which also has among the smallest ratio of active cases to reported cases.

On the other hand, West and Central Java have seen an uptick in newly cases since early September. 

West Java is ranked third with a total of 33,147 cases, an increase of almost 200 percent in less than two months. On August 31, West Java reported a total of 11,063 cases.

Over the same period, the total number of cases in Central Java has been more than double to reach a total of 31,302. Central Java has the third-biggest death toll in the Indonesian outbreak, with a total of 1,645 deaths.

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New infections are trending down in South Sulawesi, South Kalimantan and North Sumatra, but the virus is spreading faster in East Kalimantan, Riau and West Sumatra. This kind of balance keeps the national tally climbing as the ten worst-affected provinces account for 77 percent of cases nationwide.

Efforts to contain the spread of the virus depend largely on those provinces, primarily the top four in Java.

In addition, Aceh and Banten have been reporting higher daily average since the start of the month.