Jakarta. Japan has shipped 1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine on Thursday, marking the first delivery from foreign governments to help Indonesia increase its capacity to immunize its population. It currently faces a dramatic spike in the pandemic.
Thursday's shipment was the first batch of 2.1 million doses that the Japanese government has promised to Indonesia.
"Japan and Indonesia have always helped each other and strengthened the bonds of friendship when facing difficult conditions such as the devastating earthquakes in 2011 and 2018," Japan Ambassador to Indonesia Kanasugi Kenji said in an online press conference on Thursday.
"I hope the vaccine delivered today can help the efforts of the Indonesian government and health workers," Kanasugi said.
The Southeast Asian country currently relied on vaccines from Chinese manufacturer Sinovac Biotech, a supply that it secured early in the pandemic through a business-to-business deal, to make up more than 90 percent of its current vaccine supply of 119 million doses.
Shipments from Covax/Gavi, a multilateral vaccine procurement scheme backed by World Health Organization (WHO), and another state-owned Chinese producer China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), accounted for the rest of the supply.
By Thursday, Indonesia has delivered 43.8 vaccine shots since the vaccination program began in January, and at least 30.2 million Indonesians have received their first vaccine doses. The country aims to vaccinate 1 million people per day this month, before doubling it next month.
Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin expressed gratitude for the delivery, saying that this reflected a close relationship between Indonesia and Japan.
"I hope the Japanese people are always healthy and that we can overcome this pandemic together. This pandemic can only be solved if all nations in the world work together," Budi said.
Unlike Sinovac vaccine deliveries that need further bottling process at state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma's facilities, the AstraZeneca doses from Japan arrived already bottled, ready for distribution across the nation.
Budi said that the government would allocate half of the supply for 121 districts and cities in Java and Bali experiencing the most severe spike of Covid-19 cases. The rest would be distributed evenly to other regions, Budi said.
Apart from increasing tracing and testing capacity, the government will boost its vaccine shot distributions to curb Covid-19 spikes in Java and Bali. As of Thursday, Jakarta has more than 74,000 active Covid-19 cases, followed by West Java with 56,000 and Central Java with 36,000.
More Deliveries to Come
Budi said Indonesia accepted a $77 million grant from Australia to procure additional 10 million doses of vaccines through the Covax/Gavi scheme. "But we haven't been able to secure any vaccine yet," Budi said.
Separately, Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said Indonesia got promises from the Netherlands and the United States for a total of 6 million vaccine doses deliveries soon.
Retno, who is currently in The Hague to attend a series of G20 meetings, held talks with her Dutch counterpart, Sigrid Kaag.
"In my conversation with the Dutch foreign minister, one of the concrete results was the Dutch government's decision to provide vaccine assistance to Indonesia in the amount of 3 million ready-made vaccines," Retno said.
Retno said the delivery from the Netherlands would be carried out as soon as possible.
Retno also met with US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken, who committed to assisting Indonesia with 3 million doses of Moderna vaccine delivery.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab had also told Retno on the sidelines of the G20 that the UK has committed to providing ready-made vaccines for Indonesia. But the amount and time of delivery were not disclosed. "Details and delivery times are being discussed further," Retno said.