Jakarta. The Drug and Food Supervisory Agency, or BPOM, decided on Monday to delay the use of Covid-19 vaccine produced by UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca amid reports of blood clots after it was administered.
Indonesia received 1.1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine last week through global procurement scheme Covax.
BPOM head Penny Lukito said the decision was taken as precautions while awaiting further recommendation from the World Health Organization and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) regarding the safety of the vaccine.
“We are communicating with the WHO and the SAGE out of precautions. The results will then be submitted to inter-agency team and the Health Ministry who will then decide whether AstraZeneca vaccine can be used in the national vaccination drive,” Penny said in a hearing with the House of Representatives’ health commission in Jakarta.
She said she could not set a timetable for the final say regarding this issue.
“Hopefully it won’t take long,” she said.
Her remarks ran counter with previous statement by Health Ministry spokeswoman Siti Nadia Tirmidzi, who said on Friday the vaccine will be administered despite safety concerns in Europe.
Siti argued that the BPOM had issued emergency use authorization for AstraZeneca vaccine a day after it arrived at Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Banten from the Netherlands.
The latest BPOM decision means that Indonesia joins a list of at least 10 countries including neighboring Thailand who suspend the use of AstraZeneca vaccine.
In the same hearing, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin expressed his hope that the WHO will decide immediately about the safety of AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I hope it will come out immediately because AstraZeneca vaccine in our stock expires in the end of May,” Budi said.
He said he is aware that UK regulator and the European Medicines Agency had found no evidence of a link between the vaccine and blood clots and advised the continuation of the jab, but the BPOM decided to put a delay pending global investigation.
Health Ministry figures show that 4.17 million people have received at least one shot of Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech since the campaign began on January 13.
The government has administered 5.73 million doses of vaccine as of Monday.