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Indonesia Launches Booster Shots as Omicron Variant Spreads

Elderly and immuno-compromised residents, who are being prioritised, queue up at health centres to boost defences against virus


Indonesia
Indonesia's Covid-19 task force considered the ban no longer relevant given the vast bulk of countries around the world have confirmed cases of the Omicron variant. Photo: Reuters.

 

Indonesia kicked off its Covid-19 booster programme for the general public on Wednesday, as the world’s fourth-most-populous nation hit an almost three-month high in cases amid the rise of the Omicron variant.

Elderly and immuno-compromised residents, who are being prioritised in the programme, queued up at local health centres to boost their defences against a virus that has infected more than 4 million Indonesians.

“I feel safer,” said Nurlaeni, 77, after receiving her booster on Wednesday morning. “There’s more Omicron now, so I feel relieved.”

“For me, for my family, this will protect our health,” agreed Rosita Wati, 62, also in the line. “Our immunity will be better.”

The booster rollout comes amid concern about the spread of the Omicron variant in Indonesia, a densely populated developing nation that was hit with a crippling Delta wave in July.

On Tuesday Indonesia recorded 802 new cases, the highest in almost three months, with senior cabinet minister Luhut Panjaitan saying that numbers could peak in February.

 

Vaccines Offered Free

President Joko Widodo announced on Tuesday that boosters would be offered free for all those eligible, after initial discussion about charging for boosters sparked controversy.

The booster rollout – for which the Sinovac, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer and Zifivax vaccines have been approved – is running in parallel with the main Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Indonesia has pledged to vaccinate more than 208 million of its 270 million people, but less than 56% of that target population has received two shots of a Covid-19 vaccine so far, according to health ministry data.

Experts say vaccine hesitancy and logistics in the sprawling archipelago have slowed distribution.

Booster shots in Indonesia will be administered as half doses, in line with studies that confirmed the efficacy of that dosage, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Kevin Hamlin

 

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Kevin Hamlin

Kevin Hamlin is a financial journalist with more than 40 years of experience covering Asia. Before joining Asia Financial, Kevin worked for Bloomberg News, spending 12 years as Senior China Economy Reporter in Beijing. Prior to that, he was Asia Bureau Chief of Institutional Investor for ten years.

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