Indonesia on Thursday gave the nod for a private COVID-19 vaccination scheme in the country, allowing companies to purchase jabs for workers.
More than 5,000 firms have registered for the campaign, according to a statement by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Rosan Roeslani, head of the trade body, said the scheme will speed up Indonesia’s inoculation drive as companies can directly provide vaccines to their employees without having to wait for the government.
A majority of the companies that have applied to join the program are from labor-intensive industries such as textile, which have been hit hardest by the pandemic, the statement said.
Health experts, though, have criticized the plan, with some terming it unethical.
Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, said it could potentially hamper the government’s plan to ensure priority-based supply.
“Vaccine supplies are still limited. There is no guarantee they [private companies] will not take the supplies that are supposed to be for the general public,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Indonesia has secured vaccine supplies for over 181 million people and has vaccinated some 1.5 health workers since Jan. 14.
The second phase of the inoculation drive targeting 38 million public sector workers and the elderly was launched on Wednesday.
- Regulations in the offing
The Health Ministry, though, has said it will implement rules that will allow the private vaccination program to start immediately and avoid any impact on the government’s drive.
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the ministry's spokesperson for the vaccination program, said there will be several provisions to ensure the scheme is not commercialized or misused.
One of these, she explained, is that the brand of vaccine used by private companies must be different from those used in the government’s free vaccination campaign.
Indonesia has only used Chinese firm Sinovac’s vaccine in its immunization drive so far, but has also secured supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novavax jabs and is working on a deal for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“Importers have to cooperate with the government to ensure there are no fake vaccines distributed, so that the quality and supervision can be managed,” Tarmizi said.
* Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency's Indonesian language services in Jakarta