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Indonesia says to start COVID-19 vaccinations programme next week

JAKARTA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s mass vaccination programme is set to start next week, a senior minister said on Monday, pending authorisation from the country’s food and drug agency (BPOM), as about 700,000 doses of vaccines have already been widely distributed.

Currently battling one of Asia’s most stubborn coronavirus epidemics, Indonesia has secured more than 329 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, most notably from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, and AstraZeneca.

Those to be used in the first phase are from China’s Sinovac , which has named its vaccine CoronaVac.

Airlangga Hartarto, the country’s chief economic minister, said the mass vaccination programme is scheduled to start next week, pending data from BPOM, which he said draws findings from the clinical trials in Brazil and Turkey.

Indonesia’s state-owned drugmaker Bio Farma has already dispatched about 714,000 CoronaVac doses to the country’s 32 provinces, it said in a statement on Monday. Indonesia has received 3 million doses of Sinovac’s vaccine so far.

Bambang Heriyanto, corporate secretary for Bio Farma, told Reuters the vaccines had been pre-positioned to save time and allow inoculations to start as soon as BPOM’s authorisation is given.

A spokeswoman for BPOM referred Reuters to a government news conference taking place on Monday when asked about the schedule for vaccinations.

Early results from late-stage trials of the CoronaVac, showed it was 91.25% effective, while researchers in Brazil have said it was more than 50% effective, though full results were yet to be released at the company’s request.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Indonesia’s health minister, has said that Indonesia needs to inoculate about 181 million people, or roughly 67% of its population, to reach herd immunity.

He said 1.3 million health workers would be first in line for the shots, followed by public servants.

The programme aims to complete the vaccinations within 15 months, a senior health ministry official said on Sunday. (Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Martin Petty)

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