Vice President Ma’ruf Amin to sit out first COVID-19 vaccine jabs due to advanced age

Indonesian Vice President Ma’ruf Amin. Photo: Vice President Secretariat Office
Indonesian Vice President Ma’ruf Amin. Photo: Vice President Secretariat Office

As President Joko Widodo is set to be the first person in Indonesia to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Indonesia, his second-in-command Ma’ruf Amin will wait for a true and tested vaccine that is safe for the elderly.

The vice president, who is 77 years old, has been ruled out of receiving the vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac. Indonesia currently has no data on the vaccine’s efficacy on the elderly, with its clinical trial only involving participants aged between 18 and 59.

“The vice president is above 60, so it’s not possible that he is vaccinated using the available vaccine, which is Sinovac’s,” the vice president’s spokesman Masduki said today.

“Maybe [he’ll get inoculated] in the next phase, when a vaccine that’s suited to the vice president’s condition is available.”

President Jokowi, 59, will receive the jab on Wednesday, Jan. 13 in a live televised event. As of today, only Sinovac’s vaccine has been shipped to Indonesia. 

Indonesia has secured 125 million doses of Sinovac’s vaccine, with 3 million doses having arrived in the country in recent weeks. Efficacy data from Indonesia’s trial of the vaccine is not yet available, but the country’s regulators may issue its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) based on clinical trial results from elsewhere, namely Brazil and Turkey.

Sinovac’s vaccine is currently being distributed throughout Indonesia’s 34 provinces, with the hope that prominent figures in the healthcare industry, public officials, and religious leaders will lead by example with Jokowi and be among the first to get the jab after the issuance of an EUA.

It must be noted that seven days before Jokowi’s scheduled vaccination date, Indonesia’s Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency (BPOM) has yet to issue an EUA for any COVID-19 vaccine.

The government has also secured 130 million doses of a vaccine from US pharmaceutical firm Novavax and is finalizing vaccine procurement deals from US-German pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and the UK’s AstraZeneca. 

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin previously said that at least 181 million people out of Indonesia’s total population of 269 million will have to be vaccinated to trigger a herd immunity against COVID-19. Assuming double jabs for each person and a 15 percent vaccine wastage, Indonesia would need to secure 426 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Unlike COVID-19 vaccine pioneers like the US and the UK, Indonesia plans to begin mass inoculations against COVID-19 by prioritizing working age adults (18-59) over the more vulnerable elderly, with faster economic recovery in mind.

The health minister said it would take around 15 months, starting this month, for the government to reach its vaccination goal.

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