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COVID vaccines

Indonesia to give booster Moderna shots to health workers

Vaccines to be delivered to 1.47m medics from next week

People wait to receive a vaccine against COVID-19, as the Indonesia government speeds up its inoculation effort by deploying a mobile vaccine van in Jakarta on Friday.

JAKARTA -- Indonesia plans to give booster Moderna shots to health workers, amid its struggles to contain the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

Indonesia's medics have mostly been inoculated with the Chinese vaccines, over which doubts continue over their efficacy, especially against the highly transmissible delta variant.

The country's chief economic minister Airlangga Hartarto and health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin announced the decision in an online news conference on Friday. The third shots will cover 1.47 million health workers.

"Because our vaccination conditions still do not cover the main target, it is important that we understand that this third vaccination is only for health workers," Sadikin said. "Because they encounter high levels of viruses every day, we must protect them so that their performance remains good," he said.

Sadikin added that the program is intended to "provide maximum immunity against the existing COVID-19 mutation variants."

The U.S. said on Saturday it will donate four million Moderna shots to Indonesia via the COVAX global vaccine sharing program. They are slated to arrive on Sunday, which will allow the government to proceed with the booster shots from next week.

China has provided nearly 85% of the vaccines received by Indonesia by the end of June. Skepticism toward the Chinese jabs was spurred by reports of health workers, mostly vaccinated with Sinovac, contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized. Some died.

Experts maintain they are still effective in preventing severe symptoms and deaths.

Hartarto also announced that the tighter social restrictions imposed on Java and Bali will be extended to 15 cities in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, as the country struggles to contain the surge in daily cases.

Indonesia reported 38,124 new cases and 871 deaths on Friday. Cumulative confirmed cases stand at 2.4 million cases and 64,631 deaths. Daily cases have surpassed the 30,000 mark for four consecutive days through Friday.

The recent surge is being blamed on the delta variant. Indonesia has a cumulative prevalence rate of 25% for delta, according to the outbreak.info portal from Scripps Research of the U.S. -- higher than 19% and 14% in Malaysia and Thailand, respectively.

Luhut Pandjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime affairs and Investment, recently said that the government was preparing for "a worst-case scenario" of daily new cases topping 70,000, but experts have warned it could reach 100,000.

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