Indonesia’s new Covid wave puts China’s Sinovac to the test

Indonesian Red Cross workers spray disinfectant in the residential area of ​​Pondok Bambu in Jakarta, Indonesia on February 10, 2022. This action aims to suppress the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Eko Siswono Toyudho | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Indonesia is going through a new wave of Covid infections, with daily cases hitting record highs in the past week.

The Southeast Asian country has relied heavily on inactivated virus vaccines produced by China, which studies have previously shown to be less effective than mRNA injections.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines use genetic material to trigger the infection-fighting process in the body, while traditional vaccines use a dead or weakened virus to produce an immune response.

Wednesday, Indonesia has hit a daily record of more than 64,000 cases – replacing daily infections from the previous wave, which peaked at just under 57,000 in July 2021.

The country reported 5.2 million cases of Covid-19 so far and at least 146,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Health. It has the highest number of cases among Southeast Asian countries, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

The latest outbreak of Covid cases in Indonesia has put Chinese-made vaccines to the test.

Two doctors who spoke to CNBC argued that vaccines produced in China — like the one developed by Sinovac Biotech that Indonesia has relied on the most — are still capable of preventing serious illness and death.

If you have received two or three doses of Sinovac or Sinopharm, these vaccines are frankly doing their job.

Wine Gupta

Assistant Professor, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

“That’s actually, I mean, the first and biggest advantage of any type of vaccine in the world,” said Dr Dicky Budiman, a global health security researcher at Griffith University in Australia.

Being less effective is not the same as being ineffective, he told CNBC.

“If you’ve had two or three doses of Sinovac or Sinopharm, these vaccines are frankly doing their job,” said Vin Gupta, an assistant professor affiliated with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research center. at the University of Washington.

Injections don’t prevent infection, but keep people out of hospitals – “exactly what they should be doing,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” last month, adding that the world had bad expectations about Covid vaccines.

Omicron Threat

Budiman of Griffith University said countries should use any available vaccine that has been approved by the World Health Organization.

“If we wait [for] messenger RNA, many people…will die during the delta wave,” he said.

He also said he hopes the world doesn’t see vaccines as “Chinese” or “Western”, but rather as “available tools” that we have and can use now.

virus situation

Covid cases in Indonesia started rising rapidly in January and continue to climb. The WHO said in an epidemiological report on February 15 that infections in the country had increased by 68% compared to the previous week.

Project HOPE’s Rahmat said the increase in cases came mainly from densely populated cities such as Bandung, Yogyakarta and the capital Jakarta. However, the virus could soon spread further in suburban areas, he said.

Bed occupancy rates in hospitals are also increasing. “This is a worrying situation. If cases increase sharply in the next few weeks, there will be many people who will need to be hospitalized, and the hospital’s peak capacity could be reached very soon,” a- he warned.

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