The Health Ministry and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed on Wednesday an agreement on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine under the COVAX Facility, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) that aims to help buy and fairly distribute the vaccine.
Through this agreement, Indonesia could ensure access to COVAX"s COVID-19 vaccines once they were available, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said.
"Since the very beginning of the pandemic, Indonesia has consistently underlined the importance of safe, effective and affordable vaccines [...] We developed cooperation through bilateral and multilateral tracks [for vaccine procurement]," Retno said on Wednesday.
"It is my strong hope that through this memorandum of understanding [MoU], once [COVID-19] vaccine is available we won"t have any delay in delivering it to the people," she added.
UNICEF representative to Indonesia Debora Comini said all countries participating in the COVAX scheme would have special access to the vaccine at affordable prices, once it is available.
"All participating countries will have special access at affordable prices, Indonesia is going to be part of this very important initiative," Debora said.
Read also: China coronavirus vaccine may be ready for public in November
She explained that the MoU signing would also allow domestically manufactured COVID-19 vaccines, such as the “Merah Putih” vaccine, to be placed in the international market through UNICEF"s supply division.
Through the agreement, Indonesia will also have access to vaccines for other diseases such as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) against pneumococcal disease.
"This [PCV] vaccine could save 10,000 children per year in Indonesia," she said.
According to Retno, Indonesia would receive financial assistance for COVAX"s COVID-19 vaccine procurement through the Official Development Assistance (ODA) mechanism.
"We"re maintaining intensive communication with the COVAX Facility and the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization [GAVI], including about [the vaccine"s] price, availability, etc. We predict that this vaccine will be available in 2021," she said.
"With the ODA financial assistance, the vaccine would be more affordable than through other means of procurement," she added.
Read also: Jokowi forms national team to accelerate vaccine development
Seventy-six wealthy nations are now committed to joining the COVAX Facility, including Japan, Norway and Germany.
Besides the WHO, COVAX is also co-led by GAVI and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and is designed to discourage national governments from hoarding COVID-19 vaccine and to focus on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country.
Its backers say this strategy should lead to lower vaccine costs for everyone and a swifter end to the pandemic that has claimed some 926,000 lives globally as per Tuesday.
Wealthy countries that join COVAX will finance the vaccine purchases from their national budgets, and will partner with 92 poorer nations supported through voluntary donations to the plan to ensure vaccines are delivered equitably.
COVAX"s aim is to procure and deliver 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021. It currently has nine COVID-19 candidate vaccines in its portfolio, which employ a range of different technologies and scientific approaches.