Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi speaks during an online press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Foreign Affairs Ministry)

Less-Developed Countries Should Be Guaranteed Access to Coronavirus Vaccine

BY :NUR YASMIN

APRIL 29, 2020

Jakarta. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has been calling for the international community to ensure that a vaccine for the coronavirus – if and when it's ready – is made readily available for developing and less-developed countries.

"Indonesia will help to make sure the vaccine and drugs developed to treat Covid-19 remain affordable, so developing and less developed countries can get their hands on them. They should be registered under the international patent system according to the World Intellectual Property Organization," Retno said on Wednesday.

"This has been my main message in various meetings, including during yesterday's Ministerial Coordination Group meeting on Covid-19, which was attended by foreign ministers from 11 countries," she said.

Retno said research for the Covid-19 vaccine has been involving inter-agencies cooperation, including a collaboration between Indonesian pharmaceutical company Kimia Farma and the United States' Gilead Sciences to develop the antiviral medication remdesivir.

The companies are now waiting for results from a trial of remdesivir, a drug first tried in Ebola patients.

State-owned company Biofarma and the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology are also developing a blood plasma treatment for Covid-19 patients with moderate symptoms.

Biofarma, the Research and Technology Ministry and the Eijkman Institute are now joined in a consortium to develop a coronavirus vaccine in cooperation with international partners.

Before a successful vaccine is released to the public, it must go through pre-clinical and clinical trials, production, licensing, distribution and safety monitoring.

According to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently 120 potential vaccines for Covid-19 in various stages of development.

A total of 82 of them are in pre-clinical trials.

Seven of them are in the clinical trial stage: the Adenovirus Type 5 Vector, ChAdOx1, DNA Plasmid Vaccine with electroporation, Inactivated, Inactivated+Alum, mRNA and LNP-encapsulated mRNA.

Companies and organizations working on the vaccine include the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in China, Moderna in the US and Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

Most of them hope to have a vaccine ready for clinical trial by the end of 2020 or early next year.

On Wednesday, vaccine manufacturers and regulatory authorities from Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, held a meeting with the WHO.

Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the WHO's Southeast Asia regional director, said Indonesia, Thailand and India are among the world's largest vaccine manufacturers with the ability to produce and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine globally.

"This region is a vaccine manufacturing powerhouse, and it must also play a lead role in overcoming the ongoing pandemic," he said in a statement.

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