The first batch of Covid-19 vaccine ordered from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. arrived in Indonesia, marking a new phase in the country’s fight against Southeast Asia’s worst outbreak.
As many as 1.2 million doses of the vaccine arrived late on Sunday and the government expects to receive another shipment of 1.8 million in early January, according to Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Sinovac will also ship raw material for 45 million doses, which Indonesia’s state pharmaceutical firm PT Bio Farma will process locally, Widodo said in a statement.
Besides Sinovac, the government has orders with at least three other vaccine suppliers, including AstraZeneca Plc, whose shots are in late-stage trials.
The Jakarta Composite Index of shares gained the most in Asia, surging 1.2% as of 9:50 a.m. in Jakarta led by banking stocks and PT Astra International.
Indonesia has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia at more than half a million, and more than 17,000 people have succumbed to the disease. The government aims to provide free vaccination for as many as 120 million Indonesians at a cost equivalent to 0.5% to 1% of gross domestic product through 2022, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said last month.
Those on the front lines of the pandemic, including health workers, police, military and public servants, will receive the first 3 million doses this month. After that, the government will prioritize those aged 18 to 59 years old with no comorbidities, which would require 246 million shots in all.
The Sinovac vaccine’s arrival underlines the unique challenge faced by Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, in rolling out the shots to a population strewn across about 6,000 islands. The doses arrived in Jakarta on Sunday midnight and had to be transported by refrigerated trucks over a three-hour drive to the city of Bandung, just 150 kilometers (93 miles) away. That journey is likely to take much longer and be more complex for regions beyond Java island, which has the most robust infrastructure.