Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo announced that Indonesia would start vaccinating children aged 12 to 17 years against Covid-19 using Coronavac, a vaccine made by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech after Indonesia's drug supervisory authority greenlight its use on children.
“We are particularly delighted that the BPOM [the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency] has provided an emergency use authorization for the Sinovac vaccine, which has been confirmed safe for children aged 12 to 17 years," Jokowi said in a televised press conference on Monday.
"Therefore, vaccination for children of that age can begin immediately," he said.
BPOM gave the green light after reviewing clinical trials phase I and II result, which shows no fever among the studies subjects of 12-17 years old after receiving the vaccine. The agency said that a 30 percent mortality rate among 10 to 18 years old Covid-19 patients also contributed to its latest recommendation.
Previously, BPOM only approved Sinovac use on people above 18 years old, citing a lack of evidence on other age groups. On the other hand, the country's relied on the Chinese vaccine for its early vaccination push as the Chinese vaccine accounted for 90 percent of the country's vaccine stock to date. As a result, the children were left vulnerable, especially after the Delta variant, a novel coronavirus variant first detected in India, found its way to spread among the country's population.
Children under 18 years now account for one in eight Covid-19 cases in Indonesia, according to data collected by the Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI) said last week.
The fatality rate among children was between 3 to 5 percent, higher than the country's fatality rate of 2.7 percent. Half of the children victims were toddlers, IDAI said.
Jakarta, which is now Indonesia's Covid-19 epicenter, reported 8,348 new cases on Monday. About 13 percent of the cases were children younger than 18 years old. These include 917 kids between 6 and 18 years and 327 toddlers between 0 and 5 years.
Dwi Oktavia, the head of the disease prevention and control division at Jakarta's provincial health department, called for parents to be more protective of their children.
"It is imperative for parents to take care of their children more strictly and avoid leaving the house with them. Just do activities at home with your children," Dwi said.
Maria Adrijanti, a health team leader at Wahana Visi Indonesia, a nongovernmental organization specializing in children's welfare, said that the parents must realize that the SARS-CoV-2 has mutated into variants make the youth and children more susceptible to the virus.
"Don't fall for the assumption that children are more resistant to Covid-19. In reality, this time cases have increased sharply," Maria said in a recent statement.