Jakarta. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo asserted on Monday that he will not allow the country’s health officials to fast track vaccination against coronavirus while showing a disregard for safety requirements.
Several officials in his cabinet have hinted that emergency use of the vaccine for the “priority group” -- including health workers and security officials -- can start as soon as next month or December.
The president said he is not in a rush for mass vaccination before all clinical trials of the vaccine have been concluded with proven efficacy and safety, a process that may take until January next year.
"The safety aspect of the vaccine has become a major concern among the public, including experts and researchers,” Jokowi said when leading a cabinet meeting at the State Palace in Central Jakarta.
"Be careful, we shouldn’t rush to vaccinate people while taking scientific considerations and health statistics as of secondary importance. We simply can’t do that,” he added.
Even if the government is eager to speed up mass vaccination, it won’t do so before all testing procedures have been completed, the president said.
“The government is taking a quick response but at the same time we make sure that everything is planned and prepared carefully,” Jokowi said.
The government is taking quick actions in procuring vaccines because “all countries in the world are racing for the vaccine” in a hope that lives will return to normal, he said. The president, however, stopped short of mentioning emergency use of the vaccine for health workers.
His remarks came after an epidemiologist warned against fast-tracking of vaccination against coronavirus at a time when not a single vaccine is widely proven for safety and efficacy.
None of all the vaccine candidates being developed around the globe has passed the entire stages of clinical tests at present, including those from China, the United Kingdom and the United States, according to Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist with the University of Indonesia.
He said on Thursday the government should avoid the rhetoric that there is already a working vaccine for the Indonesian people.
Indonesia is one of at least five countries currently conducting the phase three clinical test of a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, involving more than 1,600 volunteers who have received the trial vaccine.
It also plans to acquire Sinopharm and CanSino vaccines from the same country, as well as a vaccine developed by British multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
The government has targeted to vaccinate 60 percent of the country's 272 million people.