The nation of Indonesia, the fourth most populous worldwide, has inked a deal with AstraZeneca to buy 100 million COVID-19 vaccines next year. Known as AZD1222 (Oxford vaccine), Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi signed a letter of intent while visiting with AstraZeneca in London. The first delivery would be in the first half of 2021. This recent move evidenced the southeast Asian nation’s effort to diversify and hedge its bets on an effective vaccine approach to effectively take on COVID-19. Most of its dealings to date have been with Chinese vaccine development firms, primarily Sinovac.
COVID-19 in Indonesia
The novel coronavirus continues to surge in that nation leading to new daily records of infections. By October 15, the country reported 4,411 new COVID-19 cases totaling 349,160; some websites have a total of 361,867. Total deaths, according to the recent Jakarta Post article, total 12,268 representing the highest death toll in the region. Moreover, a good number of public health professionals believe, given the lack of testing infrastructure, that the number of total infected is far undercounted. Additionally, the Indonesian Medical Association recently reported that 136 doctors have died according to one news source.
Some have critiqued the leadership’s handling of COVID-19 in the world’s fourth most populous nation, with about 274 million people. The country’s leadership is focused now on vaccines, while it may become the second nation outside of China to allow emergency use of one of China’s investigational vaccine candidates.
Deals with Chinese Firms
On July 23, TrialSite reported that Indonesia inked a deal with China’s Sinovac to initiate a Phase 3 clinical trial testing their Coronavac COVID-19 vaccine candidate and that they also entered into an option to purchase 100 million doses of the candidate vaccine. With local state-owned pharmaceutical company partner, PT Bio Farma, up to 40 million doses could be produced locally by or before March 2021 if the study went well.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that Indonesia would procure 18 million doses by the end of the year from three Chinese firms, including Sinovac, Sinopharm, and CanSino Biologics.
Indonesia & China Boost Collaboration
Indonesian special envoy Luhut Binsar Panjaitan visited China on October 9 with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss tighter Chinese and Indonesia collaboration in the fight against COVID-19. The pair agreed to increase collaboration and make Indonesia a hub for vaccine production, reported The Diplomat.
Diversifying & Hedging Risk
The Diplomat suggests Indonesia is “spreading its risk” by ensuring it is in deals with China and the West or what’s known in some parts as the “vaccine divide” between China—leveraging its vaccines as a tool for business and political partnership in a bid to boost its influence in key developing world countries and the rival “West” such as the United States, United Kingdom, etc.