Jakarta. The Indonesian government has targeted to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the country’s 273 million population starting next year and will shoulder the costs for 93 million people of low-income families, a minister said on Thursday.
The free vaccination will prioritize around 1.5 million medical workers in the frontline of the country’s fight against coronavirus when a vaccine against the disease is available later this year.
The government has set a timeline for the mass vaccination to start in January, once the phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine is concluded successfully.
It has received a supply commitment of 30 million doses of the vaccine from China and the United Arab Emirates for initial delivery in November.
"We will make sure that around 1.5 million selected medical workers become the first to get the vaccine. They are our heroes fighting in the frontline against this pandemic,” State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir said at a joint news conference with leaders of doctor and nurse associations in Jakarta.
Erick, who also heads the Committee for National Economic Recovery and Covid-19 Handling, said the government will select 1.5 million doctors and nurses with the help of associations to conduct mass vaccination, but first they must be vaccinated before carrying out their duty.
If possible, medical workers can get the vaccine as early as December, he added.
The government will shoulder vaccination costs for 93 million people of low-income families using data from the national health insurance scheme BPJS Kesehatan, he added.
"To reduce pressures on the state budget, the government also encourages employer associations to arrange free vaccination for their workers," Erick said.
He slammed social media rumors alleging that the government will prioritize those willing to pay to be listed among the first batch of mass vaccination.
"Don’t twist our remarks to falsely indicate that people who pay will be prioritized over those who don’t,” Erick said.
He said employers are encouraged to arrange vaccination for their workers because they are financially capable.
“They are able to conduct self-funded vaccination program. Besides, those employers make their money in Indonesia,” Erick said.
Erick estimated the price of a dose of vaccine will arrive at around $7 by next year. But at the initial stage, the number could grow to $30 due to limited production capacity and higher demand.
"We shouldn’t treat this with prejudice that the vaccine will serve as a lucrative business to a small group of people,” Erick said, adding that the targeted number of vaccinated people remains small compared to other countries.
“Britain has planned to procure vaccine four times the number of its population. We have a population of 273 million people, but currently we focus on 70 percent of the population to be immediately vaccinated.”
Vaccination for citizens under 18 years old will come at a later stage on consideration that they have stronger immune system, Erick said.
“It doesn’t mean that we sacrifice the younger generation, so please don’t twist my words,” he said.