Indonesia postpones vaccination launch with AstraZeneca

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Indonesia to postpone the launch of COVID-19 vaccination campaign with AstraZeneca pending a decision from the World Health Organization after possible side effects reported, the country’s health minister said Asian Monday.

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“To be on the safe side,” the Indonesian health regulator “is postponing the use of AstraZeneca pending confirmation from the WHO,” Budi Gunadi Sadikin told parliament.

A dozen countries have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution, after the reporting of “possible” side effects but without a proven link at this stage.

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical group says for its part that there is “no evidence of an aggravated risk” of blood clot caused by its vaccine, while the WHO had estimated Friday that there was “no reason not to use this vaccine.

The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford is one of the cheapest on the market, and it is crucial to ensure poor countries’ access to vaccination.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, received 1.1 million doses of AstraZeneca in March, and expects 10 million in April.

Until now, the archipelago had used the Chinese Sinovac vaccine. It plans to vaccinate over 181 million people within a year, out of a total population of some 270 million.

Indonesia is one of the Asian countries hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than 1.4 million cases and nearly 39,000 deaths, but the real toll could be higher.