A little more than 80 percent of COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia come from China, while a fifth of all vaccines exported by the superpower have gone to the Southeast Asian country, officials said.
Indonesia is the largest recipient of Chinese vaccines, according to Beijing-based research firm Bridge Consulting, and that, one analyst said, does not showcase Jakarta’s much touted “free and active” foreign policy.
Jakarta on Friday received another two million doses of the vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech, this time as a donation from Beijing and the pharmaceutical company, said Xiao Qian, China’s ambassador to Indonesia.
“So far, Sinovac and Sinopharm have sent 215 million doses of vaccine to Indonesia,” Xiao told an online news conference.
“It accounts for almost 20 percent of all vaccines exported by China in the same time period, and more than 80 percent of the total vaccines obtained by Indonesia.”
Overall, Indonesia has received 273 million doses of vaccines from a variety of drug makers worldwide, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Friday. These include doses produced by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Janssen.
Retno said international cooperation was key to ending the pandemic.
“Our diplomatic machinery continues to work, establishing cooperation in various forms so that our vaccine needs are fulfilled,” she told reporters.
But with 215 million of 273 million vaccine doses having come from China, it appears Indonesia’s diplomatic machinery has put most of its eggs, as it were, in one basket, according to international relations expert Teuku Rezasyah.
“Reliance on one supplier is not good,” Rezasyah, a lecturer at Bandung’s Padjadjaran University, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
The cases of Bangladesh and Thailand have proven that.
The South Asian country signed a huge deal for vaccines with an Indian company, but was then stuck without any shots for months when the manufacturer halted exports after a horrific second wave of COVID-19 hit India.
Closer to Indonesia, Thailand’s over-reliance on AstraZeneca’s vaccine, because a local manufacturer was awarded a contract to produce it, proved to be its undoing when the company couldn’t deliver enough or on time. The country is still behind in its inoculation campaign.
Rezasyah said Indonesia should have cast its net wide for vaccines from the get-go.
“We should have launched an international tender from the start,” he said.
“China understands that this [vaccine] business is very profitable and long-term. It’s been made easier because Indonesia and China also have a strategic partnership.”
Indonesia needs to engage more broadly with other nations for vaccine supplies, he said.
That would also be in line with the foundation of its foreign policy, Rezasyah said about the archipelago nation that is one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Declining Sinovac efficacy?
Additionally, research conducted in Indonesia and released in August showed that the Sinovac vaccine, named CoronaVac, provided protection against COVID-19 – a clinical trial showed its efficacy was 65 percent.
But the study by the research and development wing at the Ministry of Health also found that the vaccine was less effective at protecting against death and severe illness in the April-June period, compared with the previous three months.
The vaccine prevented 79 percent of deaths during April-June, down from 95 percent in January-March, said Siti Nadia Tarmizi, spokeswoman for the government’s COVID-19 task force.
It prevented 53 percent of hospitalizations during April-June, down from 74 percent January to March.
Siti did not provide a reason for the drop, but infections that led to the highly contagious Delta variant-related second wave may well have begun in the April-June period.
As of Friday, more than 84.8 million people in the country had received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 47.7 million of them fully vaccinated, according to data from the health ministry.
Of those fully vaccinated with the Sinovac jabs, nearly 900,000 received a third, non-Sinovac dose.
Indonesia said in July that it planned to give a third vaccine shot to many of the 1.47 million medical workers inoculated with Sinovac, using a jab developed by Moderna – an American drug firm – to protect them from the Delta strain.
An Indonesian volunteer group that keeps tabs on pandemic data, LaporCOVID-19, had at the time said that some health workers fully vaccinated with Sinovac had died from COVID-19. Thailand made a similar announcement that month.
Meanwhile, Indonesia has not yet received any of the 20 million doses of the Sputnik vaccine promised by Russia, even though the country’s Food and Drug Monitoring Agency has issued an emergency use authorization for the jab.
“I can’t respond in detail because this is still under negotiation,” the Russian ambassador to Jakarta, Lyudmila Vorobieva, told a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
“There are formalities that need to be completed.”
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.