President Jokowi says companies can buy vaccines for employees in March

President Joko Widodo during a cabinet meeting on July 14, 2020. Photo: Instagram/@jokowi
President Joko Widodo during a cabinet meeting on July 14, 2020. Photo: Instagram/@jokowi

President Joko Widodo has announced a tentative schedule to the start of Indonesia’s independent vaccination program, in which the private sector will be able to procure COVID-19 vaccines for their employees.

President Jokowi’s administration has publicly backed the independent program to run simultaneously with the fully government-subsidized national mass vaccination program in order to have the private sector shoulder some of the financial burden associated with the mammoth undertaking of inoculating Indonesia’s population.

With the second phase of the mass vaccination program now underway, the president said the independent vaccination can soon follow and run concurrently.

“Hopefully in late February or early March 2021 at the latest, independent vaccinations can be launched,” President Jokowi said at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta yesterday. 

“Companies that purchase vaccines [for the program] can administer free vaccinations to employees and their families,” Jokowi added, stressing that the private sector is not allowed to commercialize the vaccines.

The COVID-19 Handling and National Economy Recovery Committee said in a press release today that the Health Ministry will oversee the procurement and distribution of vaccines for the independent program. Companies are also barred from procuring the same vaccines as the ones used in the government’s program to prevent the latter’s disruption of supply. 

Indonesia currently only has widely distributed 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. 

In addition, vaccines must be administered in private health facilities for the independent program, as state-owned hospitals and clinics will still be utilized for the government’s program.

There has been some pushback to the government’s proposal for the independent program, with the commercialization of vaccines still a concern for many despite the government’s assurances. There is also concern that the independent program may amplify social and wealth disparities in the country and result in some of the less fortunate citizens being neglected in the long run.

Indonesia aims to vaccinate some 180 million people to trigger herd immunity against COVID-19 by early 2022. The government’s mass vaccination program launched on Jan. 13, and as of Feb. 18, Indonesia has administered the first dose of the CoronaVac vaccine to 1,149,139 people, 597,328 of whom have received their second of the required two doses of the vaccine.

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