TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian Government has unveiled that its planned COVID-19 vaccination program due to be kicked off in the second week of November 2020 may be delayed until the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) has issued an emergency use authorization.
The BPOM could not yet issue the emergency use authorization because there were several steps that it should still meet though the COVID-19 vaccine stocks had been available, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said.
Speaking at at meeting on the job creation law-related issues that the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) held here on Friday, Pandjaitan said President Joko Widodo had called him to remind him of prioritizing safety and obeying the rules.
"Mr.President says that safety is number one. I think the government does obey the rules," he said at the meeting which was broadcast on the institute's Youtube channel.
He then shared his personal experience when visiting Yunan, China, along with an Indonesian delegation recently. He saw that local residents had no longer worn face masks to prevent them from the airborne transmission of novel coronavirus disease.
On the contrary, the Indonesian delegates still wore the face masks so that he jokingly told them that they were like aliens amid the crowds of people who had no longer worn face masks, Pandjaitan said.
When meeting with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, he offered him to get a vaccine injection but he politely refused the offer because he bowed to the Indonesian Government's rule regarding the emergency use authorization, Pandjaitan said.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi himself told him that he had received the vaccine injection, Pandjaitan added.
Regarding the government's planned vaccination program, the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) had emphasized the importance of the availability of safe and effective vaccines.
In its letter to the Health Ministry, which ANTARA accessed on Thursday, IDI's central executive board praised the government for prioritizing the vaccination program for medical workers.
However, IDI chairman Daeng M Faqih, who signed the letter, highlighted the importance of ensuring that the safety, effectiveness, and immunogenicity of the COVID-19 vaccines is established before they are administered to Indonesians.
President Joko Widodo has instructed that the vaccination program should not be conducted in a hurry, he said, adding that the required vaccines could evidently be vetted through the published results of their Phase 3 clinical trials.
Faqih further revealed how other countries have also exercised caution when it comes to COVID-19 immunizations by waiting for more published data on the results of Phase 3 clinical trials.
The trials for China's Sinovac vaccine, for instance, would have been conducted on 9,000 volunteers in Brazil, but the results would have been published soon after 15,000 volunteers had been vaccinated, he pointed out.
This reality shows that, apart from its significance in conquering the novel coronavirus disease, the vaccination program must not be conducted in a hurry, he said.