The online petition platform change.org has started to trend online among Indonesian citizens since 350 people signed a campaign against the semi-finished Covid-19 vaccine. The Indonesian public have become concerned about the safety standards of the vaccine when it comes time for mass distribution
Disinformation around the vaccine’s development has fuelled doubt on its efficacy - especially with the government’s wishes to push it to market by the end of the year. Epidemiologists have urged the Indonesian government to be patient and trust the process of vaccine developers and scientists who are currently working on the trials.
In other tests around the world, side-effects have been seen. The Covid-19 vaccine trials conducted by British and Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and American multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer have shown this.
Nations around the world have estimated that a Covid-19 vaccine will be ready by the end of 2020, which has thus created a big expectation from citizens - but also a sense of pressure on scientific communities. Currently, there is no legitimate candidate that passes the authorisation for massive distribution, most versions are still under development or undergoing clinical trials.
In some cases, health experts have mutations of SARS-CoV-2 (spike mutation on N439K and D614G), which has made the virus even more contagious than previously. However, the vaccine development is likely unaffected by any changes of the novel coronavirus. Pharmaceutical companies continue the progress of vaccine development to produce effective antibodies for the future. Though, scientists have increased their surveillance for new coronavirus mutations amid concerns that future strains of the virus could develop at least partial resistance to antibodies, according to Guardian’s reporting.
Previously, the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) and several public health institutions warned the government not to rush for public launch of its Covid-19 vaccination programme. The official statement said that the Indonesian government can’t let excessive haste jeopardise the testing process.
“The vaccination programme requires comprehensive preparation, including the preparation of guidelines related to vaccination by professional associations, training for vaccine officers, and vaccine socialisation for all Indonesians,” said IDI Chairman Daeng M. Faqih.
According to Faqih, vaccination needs several considerations such as safety, immunogenicity and vaccine effectiveness, which must be guaranteed by the state so as to provide a sense of security in the community. The government should also considers the recommendations from Indonesia and the Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (TAGI) and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization of the World Health Organization (SAGE WHO), Faqih added.
As a response, President Joko Widodo asked related parties to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine. President Jokowi convinced the public that the vaccine would be ready soon, and that it will be safe for human use. President Joko Widodo also clarified the controversial statement by Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan who claimed that the vaccine will be ready in November:
“Safety means that all vaccines given to people must first go through a series of proper clinical testing based on scientific principles, data, and health standards. Because if not – if there’s even one problem – it will create public distrust,” President said during a limited meeting at the Presidential Palace on Monday, 26 October.
In addition, President Jokowi asked that the vaccine will be distributed in a few steps and ensure that Indonesians will get the vaccine at affordable prices. Currently the vaccine development also needs more time to issue an emergency use authorisation for Indonesian Food and Drug Administration (BPOM).
At the moment, state-owned pharmaceuticals company Biofarma is still in the process of rolling out trials on 1,620 volunteer participants, which was started in August and was led by Padjadjaran University researchers in Bandung, West Java. An interim analysis of the trial is expected in early 2021.
Indonesia also ordered the vaccine produced by foreign pharmaceuticals companies including Sinovac, Cansino, G42 / Sinopharm, and AstraZeneca. Later, those foreign vaccines will be also combined with authorisation from BPOM for local certification.