Lead Sinovac vaccine scientist in Indonesia dies of suspected COVID-19, media say

·2-min read

By Stanley Widianto and Bernadette Christina

(Reuters) - The lead scientist on China's Sinovac vaccine trials in Indonesia died of suspected COVID-19 on Wednesday, Indonesian media said.

The death of Novilia Sjafri Bachtiar comes as fatalities from the coronavirus reach record highs in Indonesia, one of the countries where the Sinovac vaccine has been most widely used.

Kumparan news service said Novilia had died of the coronavirus. Sindonews quoted an official of state-owned pharmaceuticals company BioFarma as saying she had been buried according to COVID-19 protocols.

State enterprises minister Erick Thohir posted a message on Instagram mourning her "huge loss" at BioFarma, which is making the vaccine. He did not give the cause of her death.

"She was lead scientist and head of dozens of clinical trials done by BioFarma, including COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in cooperation with Sinovac," he said.

"It has been produced and injected into tens of millions people in Indonesia, as part of our effort to be free from this COVID-19 pandemic."

BioFarma did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the death of Novilia, who was in her early fifties.

The infection and deaths of health workers in Indonesia who had received the Sinovac vaccine has added to questions over its effectiveness in preventing hospitalisation and death.

According to independent data group Lapor COVID-19, 131 healthcare workers, mostly vaccinated with the Sinovac shot, have died since June, including 50 in July.

Indonesia reported more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time on Wednesday and a record 34,379 infections. The latest wave of infections has been driven by the Delta variant, first identified in India.

Last month, Sinovac spokesman Liu Peicheng told Reuters preliminary results showed the vaccine produced a three-fold reduction in neutralizing effect against the Delta variant.

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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