Indonesia has received 1.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine made by the Chinese company Sinovac, President Joko Widodo said on Sunday.
The shipment was the first of a total of 3 million doses the country is procuring from China, Widodo said. It landed in the country of 267 million people on Sunday night and was escorted to a storage facility by a security motorcade in Bandung, the capital of West Java.
The vaccine was developed by the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, and is expected to help Indonesia counter a spiking number of cases. The country has reported over half a million infections and 18,000 deaths by Tuesday, with the number of daily new cases steadily rising since early November.
But skeptics have raised concerns about the safety of the vaccine, which has not completed a Phase 3 trial.
Widodo assured viewers of the vaccine’s safety in the Sunday live stream, saying that it had been clinically tested since August.
Sinovac has not yet released data on the efficacy of the vaccine from its continuing Phase 3 trial. Preliminary results previously showed that the vaccine was 70 percent effective.
In contrast, Phase 3 analysis have shown that the vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are over 90 percent effective against the coronavirus.
Sinovac is expected to announce the result of the Phase 3 trial of its vaccine next month.
Terawan Agus Putranto, the Indonesian health minister who has come under fire for botching the country’s response to the pandemic, said Monday that the country’s drug regulator is expected to authorize the emergency use of the Sinovac vaccine soon, according to Jakarta Globe.
But Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist from Indonesian University, said the government was pressuring the National Agency of Drug and Food Control to approve the vaccine, which could put the vaccination program at risk.
Widodo said that he expected another 1.8 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine to arrive by January 2021, as well as a supply of bulk vaccine enough for at least 30 million doses. Bio Farma, an Indonesian state-owned vaccine manufacturer, will process the bulk vaccine for delivery.
Widodo has said that doctors, nurses and paramedics will get vaccinated first, followed by the military and the police.
The company’s founder, Yin Weidong, admitted to bribing an official from 2002 to 2011 to get his company’s vaccine certified by a local drug testing center. He was not charged with any offences.
“The fact that the company has a history of bribery casts a long shadow of doubt over its unpublished, non-peer-reviewed data claims about its vaccine,” Arthur Caplan, medical ethics division director at New York University Langone Medical Center, told the Post.
VICE World News on Monday reached out to a spokesperson for Indonesia’s National COVID-19 Task Force about whether the government had considered the bribery case before it procured the vaccine from Sinovac. The spokesperson did not respond by Tuesday evening.