President Jokowi’s Vaccine Promise
Mass production of the Covid-19 vaccine needs to wait for the results of the phase three clinical trials, which have only just begun. Comprehensive information needs to be given out.
MANY people believe that one of the jobs of a leader is to continually foster hope. But in the hunt for a Covid-19 vaccine, a leader should base this building of hope on scientific data. Although it is possible that the phase three trials of the potential Sinovac vaccine currently being conducted by the medical facility of Padjadjaran University in Bandung will be a success, it is also possible they will end in failure.
President Joko Widodo should not hastily promise that this vaccine will be mass produced. Without complete information, this promise could give the public a false sense of security. The lack of effectiveness of the social distancing measures could make matters worse.
On a visit to Bio Farma, a state-owned company that has experience producing vaccines in Bandung, Jokowi stated that 250 million doses of the antigenic would be produced by the end of this year. However, the clinical trials have only just started, and will involve a total of 1,620 volunteers. At least six months will be needed to determine whether these trials have succeeded—one of the signs of this will be the appearance of immunity in 50 percent of the people taking part in the test.
The figure of 250 million vaccines mentioned by Jokowi as being “ready for production” sounds very good. This sum is the requirement for the vaccine if it is declared to have passed the clinical trials. The prospective vaccine produced by a Chinese company currently being tested is based on deactivated viruses. In order to be effective, every person will need to be vaccinated twice. Even if it does succeed, time will be needed to produce, distribute, and then give injections to everyone.
The World Health Organization has repeatedly said nations should not be trapped in so-called vaccine nationalism. If every nation only thinks about its own interests, and then produces the vaccine only for its people, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom is convinced that the global pandemic emergency will not end soon. These clusters from which Covid-19 spreads will not disappear if only high-income countries are able to afford the vaccine.
Every person in the world without exception is a victim of this pandemic. The solution cannot be found individually. This global pandemic will not be defeated if nations do not collaborate. Movements of people across borders will still spread the virus quickly even if one nation has managed to find a vaccine.
President Jokowi and his aides should provide comprehensive information about developments in the search for a vaccine. Underestimating the scope of the problem, as was apparent in the early days of the pandemic in February, must not be repeated. Before a vaccine is truly safe for use, the government should focus on its response to this increasingly worrying pandemic.
The situation now is genuinely concerning. While the transmission and number of positive cases is still high, the ‘feeling of safety’ is growing among the people. It is possible that public awareness is fading because of the high-profile campaign to ‘adapt to the new normal’ that is being used by the government to get the economy moving. This has been confirmed by the concentration of active cases in cities with significant economic activity, such as Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi and Greater Bandung.
The discovery of a vaccine—and also treatment—for Covid-19 could accelerate the government’s endeavor to control the pandemic. Before this comes about, the government must continue to work as hard as possible to protect its citizens. This includes providing factual information, not information simply to make the people happy and give them false hope.