WHO slams Indonesia's paid vaccine program as inappropriate, unethical

Kompas.com – July 15, 2021
WHO Immunization Program Unit Head Ann Lindstrand – Undated (Twitter)

Rakhmat Nur Hakim, Jakarta – World Health Organisation Immunization Program Unit Head Ann Lindstrand has criticised the Gotong Royong paid vaccination program in Indonesia. On the WHO's official website, Lindstrand stated that all people must have the same right to be able to access Covid-19 vaccines.

"Paying in any (form) whatsoever (to obtain vaccines) will give rise to problems of access and ethics during the pandemic. What we need at this time is in fact is broad vaccine coverage which can reach all those who are vulnerable", said Lindstrand as quoted from the WHO's official website on Thursday July 15.

Lindstrand said that Indonesia's paid Covid-19 vaccine program is inappropriate and that if there are budgetary problems then there are many institutions which can currently provide assistance to supply vaccines.

Lindstrand said that international cooperation programs such as the COVAX Facility, which is under the auspices of the WHO, has also provided free vaccine quotas to countries which need them.

She said that even though vaccine distribution and storage logistics require funds, this can be covered through assistance from various international institutions such as the World Bank.

"There are vaccine supplies from COVAX through collaborating with the UNICEF [United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund], the WHO, and others. For this they have access to free vaccines for up to 20 percent of the population being funded by those cooperating with COVAX. So there [should be] absolutely no charges paid for its implementation", said Lindstrand.

A similar view was expressed by WHO Emergency Program Executive Director Mike Ryan. He also touched on the Covid-19 situation in Indonesia which is worsening.

"We have already seen a 44 percent increase in cases over the last week and a 71 percent increase in deaths. So there is no doubt that Indonesia is facing a very difficult situation", said Ryan.

"There must be far more progress made with vaccination and Indonesia should have more access to vaccines through channels such as the COVAX initiative", he said.

Earlier, the government reported through the Health Ministry that it was conducting revisions to continue optimising the Gotong Royong vaccination program.

The revisions are included in Health Ministry Regulation (Permenkes) Number 19/2021 on the Second Revision to Permenkes Number 10/2021 on Vaccination Administration in the Framework of Tackling the Covid-19 Pandemic which was signed by Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin on July 5.

Under the new regulation, the cost for the Gotong Royong vaccinations, aside from companies and legal entities taking part in the program, will be borne by individuals.

Nevertheless, the Health Ministry has given assurances that the paid vaccination program for individuals will not eliminate public access to free Covid-19 vaccines under the government program.

On Saturday July 10, the government through the state-owned enterprise PT Kimia Farma announced the start of the Gotong Royong vaccination program for individuals or the paid Covid-19 vaccination program.

Kimia Farma was to begin selling Covid-19 vaccines through its retail outlets on Monday July 12.

But because of the deluge of criticism over the program, Kimia Farma then decided to cancel the paid vaccination program.

In relation to the cancelation, Kimia Farmer Company Secretary Ganti Winarno Putro said that the paid vaccination program would be postponed indefinitely.

"We apologies because the Gotong Royong individual vaccinations which were scheduled to begin on Monday, July 12, 2021, have been postponed until the next announcement", said Putro in a press release.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "WHO Kritik Kebijakan Vaksinasi Gotong Royong Individu Berbayar di Indonesia".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2021/07/15/19541031/who-kritik-kebijakan-vaksinasi-gotong-royong-individu-berbayar-di-indonesia