Indonesia: Several doctors die, medical workers test positive after taking Chinese COVID-19 vaccine


Facing increased COVID-19 infections and a deadly variant, Indonesia's doctors are at the centre of the crisis as many have died after being vaccinated by the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine - Sinovac. On Thursday, the country recorded more than 20,000 cases of COVID-19, the highest number since the pandemic began. Oxygen is again running out at hospitals in Jakarta, the country's capital and the national percentage of positive COVID tests reached 14.6 per cent this past week, reported the New York Times (NYT).

Since the pandemic began, 401 doctors in Indonesia have died, the risk mitigation team of the Indonesian Medical Association said on Friday. At least 20 doctors were fully vaccinated with Sinovac.

However, things took a downturn when 358 medical workers in Kudus who were vaccinated with Sinovac tested positive during a two-week span, according to the risk mitigation team of the Indonesian Doctors Association.

Indonesia has vaccinated less than 5 per cent of its population, despite having started inoculations in January. Of those who have been vaccinated, most received doses of Sinovac, which is believed to be less effective against certain COVID-19 variants.

The spread of the Delta variant in Kudus was as sudden as it was speedy. The number of COVID-19 patients affected by the Delta variant increased from 30 people per day in mid-May to about 400 patients two weeks later.

Sinovac, which is produced by a Chinese pharmaceutical company and promoted by the Chinese government, has been criticised for a lack of transparency about its clinical trials. However, Indonesia needs at least another 360 million doses to properly vaccinate the country and Sinovac has been the only manufacturer to provide doses in such large quantities, reported NYT.

For Indonesian health workers struggling with overwhelmed emergency wards and worried about their own immunity, vaccine skepticism is another headache at a time when they thought the country might be finally emerging from the pandemic.

Earlier, NYT reported that countries like Mongolia, Seychelles and Bahrain, who had relied on the easily accessible Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, are now battling a surge in infections.

In Seychelles, Chile, Bahrain and Mongolia, about 50 to 68 per cent of the populations have been fully inoculated with Chinese vaccines, outpacing the United States, according to Our World in Data, a data-tracking project. They are also among the top 10 countries with the worst COVID-19 outbreaks as recently as last week.

Beijing saw its vaccine diplomacy as an opportunity to emerge from the pandemic as a more influential global power. China's top leader, Xi Jinping, pledged to deliver a Chinese shot that could be easily stored and transported to millions of people around the world.