Indonesia to start vaccine trial from next month

JAKARTA • An Indonesian state-owned drugmaker plans to start human trials of Sinovac Biotech Ltd’s coronavirus vaccine next month and aims to begin commercial production early next year.

PT Bio Farma will administer the vaccine supplied by Beijing-based Sinovac on 1,620 people in the age group of 18 to 59 years, company’s president director Honesti Basyir said in a statement. The trials will be supervised by the faculty of medicine at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, he said.

Bio Farma has secured 2,400 doses of Sinovac’s shot, called CoronaVac, and the clinical trial is expected to be completed in six months, Basyir said. Sinovac has said its shot is safe and capable of eliciting an immune response from human trials with the company also winning approval for Phase III trials on humans in Brazil.

Indonesia tied up with Sinovac to secure access to a vaccine as its own efforts to develop a deterrent against the pathogen is expected to take longer. The world’s fourth- most populous nation is the worst virus-hit country in South-East Asia, with a death toll of 4,320 and confirmed cases nearing 90,000.

Once the vaccine clears the final phase of the clinical trials successfully, its production and distribution can begin without any delay as the regulator is working on the licensing process, said Penny Lukito, chief of Indonesia’s National Agency of Drug and Food Control.

PT Kalbe Farma, Indonesia’s largest pharmaceutical company by market value, has entered into an agreement with South Korea’s Genexine Inc to organise clinical trials for its GX-19 vaccine. Separately, Bio Farma along with the Ministry of Research and Technology and the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology has formed a consortium for vaccine development targeted for commercial production in early 2022.

Indonesia will require at least 352 million doses to immunise two-thirds of its population against Covid-19, according to official estimates.

Meanwhile, US health officials agreed to pay US$1.95 billion (RM8.29 billion) for 100 million doses of a vaccine made by Pfizer Inc and BioN- Tech SE, the latest step in an effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The companies will receive payment upon the receipt of the doses, following regulatory authorisation or approval, according to a statement. The government also can acquire up to an additional 500 million doses.

Nations around the world have begun ordering vaccines that are still being tested as part of their efforts to try to blunt the impact of the pandemic that’s roiled economies and killed more than 600,000 people since the beginning of the year. The US has already ordered experimental shots developed by the University of Oxford and Astra- Zeneca plc.

The vaccine would be available to the American people for free, according to the government. — Bloomberg