Indonesia books 40 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from Sinovac

A medical worker gives coronavirus vaccine candidate to a volunteer during a trial at a community health center in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Indonesia's only vaccine production company has started this week a so-called phase 3 clinical trials to test a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by a Chinese company. (AP Photo/Kusumadirezza)

JAKARTA: China’s Sinovac Biotech has committed to provide up to 40 million coronavirus vaccine doses to Indonesia’s government between November and March, a minister said, as the nation seeks to secure its supply as cases rise unabated.

During a visit to China, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said a preliminary agreement had been signed with Sinovac for bulk purchase and supply of the vaccine, CoronaVac, from November to March, after which Indonesia’s state-owned Bio Farma would get priority access until end-2021.

Indonesia has recorded 147,211 coronavirus infections and 6,418 deaths and is keen to secure a vaccine for its 260 million people and develop its own, amid concern among some developing countries about competition for access.

“Indonesia sees a strong commitment from China’s industries to forge partnerships and a strong commitment from its government to foster those partnerships,” she said late on Thursday via video.

Sinovac did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday and Bio Farma said it would provide comment later.

Phase III trials for Sinovac’s CoronaVac began last week in Indonesia involving 1,620 volunteers.

Bio Farma is involved in the development of the vaccine and has said Indonesia should have capacity to produce 250 million doses a year by the end of 2020, pending human trials.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, research minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said Indonesia was developing its own Covid-19 inoculation, dubbed the “red and white” vaccine after the colours of the national flag.

Brodjonegoro expected production by Bio Farma to start sometime in 2021.

“Obtaining vaccines entails risk, uncertainty,” he said. “Even if there are other countries or parties who have found effective vaccines, we need to make our own vaccine for Covid-19.”