Indonesia orders 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for private inoculations

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FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 mass vaccination program for elderly people in Jakarta

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia expects to receive 20.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna Inc and China's Sinopharm from the second quarter to use in a private vaccination scheme, the head of a state pharmaceutical firm said on Monday.

Indonesia authorised one of the world's first private vaccination programmes last month to run alongside its national drive, enabling firms to buy state-procured vaccines for their staff in Southeast Asia's biggest country.

While the plan is expected to speed up the pace of inoculation in the world's fourth most populous country, some health experts have warned it could worsen inequity.

Honesti Basyir, CEO of Bio Farma, told a parliamentary hearing on Monday that it had ordered 15 million doses from China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and 5.2 million from Moderna.

The Sinopharm vaccine could arrive by the end of the second quarter, and the Moderna shot in the third quarter, he said.

Indonesia aims to inoculate 181.5 million people within a year in an effort to reach herd immunity in a vaccination drive that began in January.

The country has suffered one of Asia's worst coronavirus epidemics, with more than 1.4 million cases and over 38,000 deaths so far.

The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry had pushed the government to authorise the private inoculation drive.

More than 11,500 companies have signed up for the plan, which would see some 7.4 million people vaccinated, Rosan P. Roeslani, head of the business group, told the same hearing on Monday.

The programme would allow employees of participating companies, plus their family members, to receive free vaccinations at privately-run health centres with shots distributed by Bio Farma.

Indonesia's food and drug agency is currently reviewing the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use approval, its chief Penny K. Lukito told the hearing.

The agency has made no mention of the approval status of the Moderna vaccine.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Martin Petty)