JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia’s publicly listed pharmaceutical company PT Kimia Farma has decided to postpone its planned self-paid vaccination program for individuals over concerns that such a scheme will halt the urgent dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccine to the underprivileged in the country.
The company’s corporate secretary, Ganti Winarno Putra said that the firm would focus on extending the rollout of self-paid vaccination campaigns and registration methods for participants.
Indonesia aims to fully vaccinate 208,265,720 individuals — or 70 per cent of its population — for herd immunity by the end of this year.
The country is trying its best to speed up the distribution of vaccines, especially to remote areas.
The background of the program
In a Parliament sitting on 13 July, Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin explained that the paid COVID-19 vaccination is only an option, claiming that the gotong-royong vaccination program is going on too slowly.
“The program’s target is 10,000-15,000 doses per day. Only 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given out of the target of 1.5 million … There are some concerns on why it is being rolled out too slowly,” he said.
Budi noted that the paid vaccination program does not derive its funding from the state budget — instead, it is financially backed by state-owned enterprises and private corporations.
Contrary to concerns, the self-paid vaccination scheme will also not pose an obstacle to the people’s access to free inoculation, he added.
Activists, experts, and WHO oppose paid vaccination; risk of exacerbating discrimination
As of 26 July, 11,254 people signed a petition opposing the self-paid vaccination plan.
“The government and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) claimed that the self-paid vaccination scheme will help the government to speed up herd immunity, which cannot be justified.
“The paid vaccination plan only covers private corporation-affiliated groups, which means only the wealthiest can get access to COVID-19 vaccine,” the petition stated.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised concerns over self-paid vaccination, stressing that everyone must have equal access to vaccination.
WHO Immunisation Programme Unit Chief, Ann Lindstrand told a virtual press conference on 12 July said that “payment could pose an ethical and access issue, particularly during a pandemic when we need the coverage and the vaccines to reach all of the most vulnerable”.
She stressed the role of COVAX, as well as global cooperation between the WHO and several countries for pandemic mitigation in speeding up research, production, and providing greater access to COVID-19 vaccines.
COVAX has provided vaccines in collaboration with UNICEF, the WHO, and other organisations.
Indonesia is one of the most active countries in this global collaboration, having received 14,704,860 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX scheme as of 13 July, according to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
Singapore and Taiwan also have a self-paid vaccination program
Singapore has approved the use of China’s Sinovac vaccines at private clinics targeting people from mainland China or those who want to travel to China.
The Sinovac vaccine is not part of Singapore’s national vaccination program and the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme for COVID-19 Vaccination will not cover the use of the Sinovac shots.
Beijing said that foreigners can enter China easier if they have received Chinese-made vaccines.
“The Ministry of Health (MOH) has selected 24 private healthcare institutions licensed under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act (PHMCA) to be licensed providers of the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine under the Special Access Route (SAR).
“These providers will draw from MOH’s existing stock and can administer the vaccine to Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents, and persons holding Long-Term Passes who wish to take the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine,” Singapore’s Ministry of Health said in a statement on 16 June.
Singapore is targeting to reach herd immunity by 9 August, meaning at least 67 per cent of the population will have been inoculated by 9 August.
In June, Taiwan stated it would allow its citizens to select their preferred brand of COVID-19 vaccine for the self-paid scheme, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre announced on 1 June.
The Hsin-Chu Branch of National Taiwan University Hospital is opening a self-paid vaccination programme for people aged 18 and above, with certain precautions for people with specific health conditions.