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© Reuters. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Banda Aceh
© Reuters. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Banda Aceh

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By Stanley Widianto

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo became the first person in the country to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Wednesday, as the government launched an ambitious vaccination campaign in a bid to stem one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia.

The immunisation campaign aims to inoculate 181.5 million people, with the first to be vaccinated receiving the CoronaVac vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech, which Indonesia authorised for emergency use on Monday.

Dressed in a white shirt and wearing a face mask, the president, who is known as Jokowi, received the jab in his left arm at the presidential palace.

The president’s doctor Abdul Muthalib said Jokowi said he did not feel any pain.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Indonesia’s health minister who also due to be vaccinated on Wednesday, has said nearly 1.5 million medical workers would be inoculated by February, followed by public servants and the general population within 15 months.

Representatives from the Indonesian Medical Association and the country’s biggest Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama, also received a shot.

Indonesia on Tuesday reported a daily record 302 coronavirus deaths, taking fatalities to 24,645. Its infections are at their peak, averaging more than 9,000 a day, with 846,765 total cases.

Analysts credited a rise in Indonesia’s stocks to the launch of vaccinations with the main index opening up around 0.7% on Wednesday.

“Vaccinations contributed a fairly positive market sentiment,” said Hans Kwee, director at investment manager Anugerah Mega Investama.

Budi has said two-thirds of the 270 million population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

Olivia Herlinda, a researcher at the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives, said the government had not taken into account the vaccine efficacy and virus reproduction rate to justify its herd immunity focus.

Epidemiologist Masdalina Pane said that vaccines had to be accompanied by increased testing and tracing.

“There’s not one bullet,” she said.

Budi said Indonesia’s testing and tracing needed improving, adding there was an imbalance in testing resources across the archipelago.

Indonesia has said its trials showed CoronaVac has an efficacy rate of 65.3%, but Brazilian researchers said on Tuesday the vaccine was only 50.4% effective.

Turkish researchers said in December it showed a 91.25% efficacy based on interim analysis.

Indonesia expects to get another 122.5 million doses of CoronaVac by January 2022, with about 30 million doses due by the end of the first quarter this year.

It has also secured nearly 330 million doses of other vaccines, including from AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:) and Pfizer (NYSE:) and its partner BioNTech.

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