Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, received an injection of a Chinese-made vaccine on live television on Wednesday as health officials prepared for a nationwide rollout.
Human trials in Indonesia have shown that the vaccine, CoronaVac, was safe and 65.3 percent effective. But scientists in Brazil said Tuesday it had an efficacy rate there of just over 50 percent – much lower than the 78 percent efficacy announced last week.
Mr. Joko was the first in Indonesia to receive the vaccination, health officials said, because he wanted to assure the public that it was safe, effective and halal, meaning it was approved under Islamic law.
When he got his injection, behind him was a red sign with white letters stating that the vaccine was "safe and halal".
"Covid vaccination is important for us to break the chain of transmission of this coronavirus and provide health protection to all of us, the people of Indonesia, and to speed up the process of economic recovery," said Mr. Joko after he had his chance. .
Indonesia, which authorized emergency use of the Sinovac vaccine on Monday, had previously ordered 125.5 million doses from the company and smaller amounts from several others. Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world with 270 million people, hopes to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating two-thirds of the population within 15 months.
But questions remain about the Sinovac vaccine, which China began administering last year before human trials were completed.
The company has not yet released any data on the results of its trials. And the vaccine's efficacy, as measured in Brazil and Indonesia, is still well below the 90-plus rates achieved by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines approved in the United States and other countries.
Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, said CoronaVac's relatively low efficacy should prompt Indonesia to look for alternatives. He also questioned the transparency of the various trials and the data being released.
"Indonesia has at least one vaccine as a tool to protect its health workers and prevent staff shortages," he said. "Of course the government has to do its best to get other vaccines."
Indonesia plans to give the vaccine to medical personnel, police officers and soldiers first. It has also started a national promotional campaign to convince members of the public to get the vaccine, which will be free.
Following Mr. Joko being vaccinated in front of the cameras were the Chief of the Army, the National Police Chief and the newly appointed Health Minister, along with other dignitaries and so-called influencers.
Indonesia has reported nearly 850,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 25,000 deaths, Southeast Asia's highest rates in both categories.