Indonesia has rolled out a Covid-19 vaccination drive to begin on Wednesday that prioritizes young working adults in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus and get its economy running again.
The drive aims to inoculate 181.5 million people, with the first to be vaccinated receiving the CoronaVac vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech, which Indonesia authorised for emergency use on Monday.
The President, Joko Widodo was the first to receive the vaccine as his country fights one off the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia having 836,18 confirmed cases and 24,343 deaths.
Indonesia’s strategy is the reverse of the accepted wisdom on vaccination, with medical experts saying the first groups to be vaccinated should be front-line medical staff and then the elderly.
“Older adults, particularly those who are frail or living in long-term care facilities, have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” found a recent study published in The Lancet, the world’s leading medical journal. “Vaccines that are safe and effective in this population have been eagerly anticipated.
Data released by Indonesia’s Ministry of Health corroborates the argument. People over 60 years of age represent only 10 percent of Indonesia’s population but 39 percent of COVID-19 fatalities.
Dr Nadia Wikeko, Ministry of Health’s spokesperson in an interview explained that the country is taking a different approach by targeting younger working people aged 18-59 instead of the elderly who are more at risk with the virus. She said, “Indonesia is targeting the productive age at 18 to 59 years instead of elderly people because we have not completed the stage three clinical trials for people this age range with the Sinovac vaccine”.
Professor Amin Soebandrio, who has advised the government on its “youth first” strategy, argues that it makes sense to prioritise immunising working people – those “who go out of the house and all over the place and then at night come back home to their families. He argues that this approach will give the country the best chance of achieving herd immunity.
There are many Indonesian citizens who agree with the decision. Putu, a 56-year-old Indonesian woman talking to Al-Jazeera said “since older people in Indonesia mostly stay at home, the chance of being infected is lower than that of people of working age… So, if younger people get vaccinated first, they can visit older people safely.”