Seeking Profit amid Pandemic

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Laila Afifa

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaPresident Joko "Jokowi" Widodo cancels the plan to allow indiviiduals to pay for Covid-19 vaccinations, but retains the commercial vaccination program for corporations.

    Indonesian President Joko Widodo has canceled the paid vaccine schemefor individuals. despite this, the similar prorgam for corporations is continuing. Companies that wish their employees to be vaccinated so they can resume resume operationssafely will have to pay a state-owned enterprise (SOE). In the midst of this fatal coronavirus contagion and the almost complete shutdown of the economy, selling a lifesaving vaccine is completely unethical. The government risks losing its credibility as well as public trust.

    Furthermor, arguments in favor of the paid vaccine have been refuted one by one. Initially, President Jokowi said that corporations would be able to buy vaccines because government funds were limited. While the government would focus on providing free vaccinations for the vulnerable people most in ned of them, companies that wanted to avoid waiting in line could use their own funds. After all, the aim is the same: ensuring that more people are vaccinated.

    But this reasoning made no sene from the start. The Rp74 trillion budget for vaccines for 182 million people can still be covered by the government. Compared to the prososal for a capital injection for an SOE or the plan to procure weapons from the ministry of defense, the vaccine budget is not that arges and should be the priority.

    The paid vaccine shceme also raises questions. initially, th government guaranteed it would import the vaccines through an SOE. Kimia Farma was nominated to import sinopharm vaccines for the "Gotong Royong vaccine" program. In practice, KADIN emerged as the coordinator - that collects data from the companies registered. Subsequently, there were whispers that a number of KADIN tycoons were behind the supply of the Chinese vaccine.

    There was also something strange with the price determined by the government. The government has also indicated that it will not be able to always provide free vaccines.

    The problem is that at present the paid vaccine scheme on the ground is also in disarray. A numbr of companies that registered their staff currently backed out. The reason was simple: the shortage of funds. This problem led to the idea to change the scheme: vaccines would be sold to individual consumers from Kimia Farma pharmacies.

    The government then changed the legal umbrella. Health Minister Budi GUnadi Sadikin told th House of Representatives that this change was made following a meeting chaired by Coordinating Minister for the Economy Airlangga Hartarto and attended by SOEs Minister Erick Thohir.

    The ruckus over the paid vaccine scheme show the chaotic handling of the pandemic in Indonesia. The health minister, the formal head of the medical authorities, seems to waver between business and political interests. He should be working with epidemiologists, public health experts and public policy experts to determine the best way to handlethe pandemic. All stakeholders must adhere to decisions made by the medical authorities.

    The pandemic will only be overcome if ther is strong social solidarity. The public are sick of those seeking to make a profit, and this also makes them question the seriousness of the government in protecting its citizens.

    Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine