Unlike Philippines, Indonesia developing own coronavirus vaccine

No, they’re not just waiting for vaccines from China or Russia.

Unlike the Philippines, Indonesia is developing its own coronavirus vaccine, which the country expects to complete by mid-2021.

“We have been developing our own vaccine for the past 3 months, specifically from the COVID-19 virus strain spread in Indonesia. Hopefully the vaccine will be ready soon and it (vaccine development) is expected to be completed by mid-2021,” said Indonesian President Joko Widodo, as quoted by the Jakarta Post on Tuesday, August 11.

Jokowi was speaking at the launch of the vaccine’s late-stage human trials, the Jakarta Post said. The vaccine is being developed by the Indonesian state-owned enterprise Bio Farma in partnership with Sinovac Biotech of China.

“We are proud that a state-owned enterprise like Bio Farma in partnership with Sinovac Biotech of China are able to begin phase III clinical trials. Not many countries or institutions have been able to reach this stage,” said Indonesia’s State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir.

This is part of Indonesia’s long-term strategy to fight COVID-19, knowing it might be difficult to gain access to other countries’ vaccines. 

“Therefore, it is necessary for Indonesia to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine. And it will be by Indonesia, from Indonesia, to Indonesia,” said Ali Ghufron Mukti of Indonesia’s research and technology ministry, in another Jakarta Post report.

In contrast, the Philippines, which has invested little in scientific research through the years, concedes it has no means to produce its own vaccine. Instead it is banking on a short-term strategy of joining clinical trials of other countries – a move Indonesia is also taking.

Even as vaccines are being developed in many other parts of the globe, President Rodrigo Duterte said he prefers to wait for vaccines from China and Russia. Duterte had begged China to prioritize the Philippines once a vaccine is available, while he was willing, in the words of German news outlet Deutsche Welle, to be Russia’s guinea pig once its vaccine is ready.

While they diverge on vaccine development, however, the Philippines and Indonesia have one thing in common: the two countries are Southeast Asia’s worst performers in fighting the coronavirus. 

The Philippines recently overtook Indonesia as the Southeast Asian country with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, but Duterte spokesman Harry Roque downplayed this development, claiming the Philippines has more cases because it conducts more coronavirus tests. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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