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Indonesia may open up COVID-19 vaccine procurement and distribution to the private sector, President Joko Widodo implied, while the country debates the faults and merits of such a policy.
The president touched on the subject this morning when he gave a virtual opening speech at a CEO forum.
“Many companies and entrepreneurs have asked me: Sir, can we vaccinate independently? This we will decide on. We need to speed up [vaccine distribution], we need as much of it as possible, and if companies shoulder the cost, why not?” Jokowi said.
“Once again, we have to navigate this issue well. Maybe they can [procure and distribute] different brands of vaccines. The location for vaccinations can also be different [to the government’s]. It can be done.”
Indonesia began its fully subsidized mass vaccination program on Jan. 13, with Jokowi being the first in the country to be inoculated against the disease (outside of clinical trials). Indonesia currently only has in stock a vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac named CoronaVac, though firm orders have been made for vaccines from other pharmaceutical firms, including Pfizer and Moderna.
From January to April, CoronaVac is being given to 1.3 million medical workers and other essential workers across the country before the vaccination program can target the general public. Indonesia has said it aims to vaccinate 181.5 million people by 2022 to trigger a herd immunity against the coronavirus, at an estimated cost of US$5.3 billion.
Similar to Jokowi’s statement, State-owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir yesterday said that independent vaccinations are possible as long as businesses procure different types of vaccines in order to avoid logistical mayhem. He added that any independently procured vaccines may only be distributed around two months after the start of the government’s free vaccination program to ensure that all essential workers get inoculated first.
While the government seems to be for the idea of private sector involvement, some health experts have warned that allowing this may result in the commercialization of vaccines, which may price out the poor from getting inoculated due to the country’s pronounced wealth gap.