Indonesia kicks off second wave of COVID-19 vaccinations

JAKARTA: Market traders were among the first to benefit from Indonesia’s second phase of mass vaccinations against the coronavirus on Wednesday (Feb 17), as the government looks to right the country’s pandemic-battered economy.

Medical teams are now focusing on workers in close contact with the public and people aged 60 and above, authorities announced, after a first phase prioritising health workers, 1.1 million of whom have been vaccinated according to the health ministry.

Indonesia’s economy – Southeast Asia’s largest – has lurched into recession during an outbreak which has infected almost 1.3 million people and killed more than 33,000, according to official data, though low testing rates mean the figures could be much higher.

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The new phase was launched with a mass inoculation at Jakarta’s Tanah Abang textile market, home to about 55,000 sellers.

“I was worried about the vaccine but I feel privileged to be one of the first people to get a jab,” garment seller Joscar Krisyadi told AFP. “Meanwhile, there are millions of people in Jakarta waiting for it.”

The second vaccination stage will see the elderly and workers most at risk, such as traders, teachers, police and civil servants, get the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine, partially produced in Indonesia.

Nia Izharul, another market worker, said she was initially reluctant to sign up for the jab, for fear of needles.

“Apparently, it did not hurt at all. Now, I don’t feel anything wrong,” the 21-year-old told AFP.

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Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin noted at the market on Wednesday that many Indonesians were still afraid of the vaccine, but added that 77-year-old Vice President Ma’ruf Amin had been inoculated that morning.

“Hopefully, this can motivate other people, particularly the elderly, to take the vaccination.”

The second vaccination stage is expected to be concluded by May 2021, reaching 38.5 million Indonesians.

The archipelago nation of nearly 270 million is planning to vaccinate more than 180 million people overall, but analysts estimate this might take years.

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