Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) —Indonesia has recovered significantly from the mid-year surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. This was one of the worst in the region, but logistics challenges and other issues have stagnated vaccination and the holidays are approaching. Experts and officials have warned that the island nation may soon face another surge.
Indonesia began deploying vaccinations earlier than any other country in Southeast Asia on January 13, and the program increased to more than one million shots per day as infection and mortality surged in July and August. Did.
However, as the fourth most populous country in the world, it required more work than in other regions. According to OurWorld, 33% are fully vaccinated today, and 16% are partially vaccinated, far behind neighboring Malaysia, where 76% are fully vaccinated. With data.
Most vaccinations are distributed to the more urban areas of Java and Bali, the largest islands in the archipelago, but many of the smaller, more rural islands with rudimentary health care systems and a aging population. Has not been reached. Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist and government academic adviser, said.
As more people return to these areas during the holidays, he said, the risk of the virus spreading to these populations increased, some of which were partially protected by quarantine.
“It’s not as bad as what we saw in July and August, but when we look at the first wave in January 2020, it could be the same because of the vulnerability,” he said.
Indonesia started its vaccination program early, which is likely to reduce its effectiveness, he said. Boosters are planned, but probably won’t start until early 2022.
The government is urging people to avoid traveling if possible and is tightening restrictions in all states over Christmas and New Year, but those who take vacations in popular Java and Bali during the holidays It is still estimated to be about 20 million.
Budiman said the country should accelerate its vaccination program now, while the number of cases has decreased and the health care system has not been overwhelmed.
Of the 270 million people, Indonesia reports more than 4.25 million cases and 143,000 deaths from COVID-19. At the peak of the last surge in July, hospitals were overwhelmed by sick patients and lacked beds and oxygen supplies, reaching 56,757 cases per day.
Due to the lack of records of tests and case reports, many questioned the official figures, and the Ministry of Health admitted this week that there could have been about four times as many cases as officially listed. rice field.
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said a study of antibodies in Jakarta residents earlier this year suggested that nearly 50% of people in the capital were infected with COVID-19. Said.
Budiman suggests that 30-35% of Indonesia’s population is infected with COVID-19, according to his own research. This could be the silver lining of the vaccination cloud in that many have developed innate immunity to the virus.
“But it’s still far from the threshold of group immunity, and we know that immunity from both vaccination and infection is declining,” he said.
Beyond the issue of distribution to remote areas, Indonesia, mainly Muslims, states that the Indonesian Ulema Council is the best Islamic organization, and that any vaccine is allowed.
Safrizar Rahman, chairman of the Indonesian Medical Association in Aceh, on the northwestern tip of Sumatra, said authorities need to contact local religious leaders to seek help in promoting the vaccine.
“They are role models of society, so we need to prioritize them,” he told The Associated Press.
Aceh currently has only about 35% of people who are partially vaccinated from about 30% in September and is facing an increase in headwinds, including a surge in false information, he said.
“Our education is still lacking compared to what people learn on social media,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are many hoaxes on social media, but they are more socially influential than those found in official sources.”
It helps that the prominent voice of former Health Minister Siti Fadirah Supari, who took the time to convict corruption, advised against obtaining the vaccine, citing a completely uncovered conspiracy theory. It didn’t happen.
With the recent decline in the number of cases, the sense of urgency for vaccination has also declined, and the World Health Organization has pointed out that the number of vaccinations for three consecutive weeks has decreased significantly, and recently it has decreased by 11.3% from November. increase. .. 15 to 21.
The government is trying to improve the situation, with 102 million doses of vaccine in December through purchases and donations from other countries.
With more refrigeration added, each state has at least one facility to hold large quantities.
Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin pointed out the recent resurgence of the virus in Europe and urged people earlier this week not to fall into the false sense of security of the current few cases.
He noted that AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna have been shown to be more effective than the more popular Sinovac, and emphasized the need to take available vaccines.
“Don’t worry. These vaccines have proven to be safe. Don’t hesitate to get the vaccine right away,” he said.
“Don’t let us do what happened in Europe,” he added.
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Increasing Concerns About Indonesian Sputtering COVID Vaccination | WGN Radio 720
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