Asia Minute: Indonesia Will Try Private Sector Vaccinations

Mar 9, 2021

The Hawaii Department of Health says more than 60,000 COVID-19 vaccines are heading for the islands this week. The vaccination process continues through priority lists — now open to those 70 and older. But in one Asian countries, vaccine distribution is taking another course.

Indonesia’s government is allowing companies to buy COVID-19 vaccines to distribute to their employees. It’s a controversial move, critics say it will potentially allow those private sector workers to jump the line, and get vaccinated ahead of the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health disagrees, telling Al Jazeera the program will get its vaccines from a different source than the publicly distributed vaccines in a separate, but parallel, process.

The companies will have to import the vaccines at their own cost, and provide them free to their employees and their families at private health care facilities.

The government is picking up the cost for the public vaccinations, which are done at public health care facilities and other locations set up by federal and regional officials.

Involving the private sector is an idea that started with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry — which said it would boost economic productivity while also helping the government pay to get shots into millions of its citizens.

The Chamber told the Wall Street Journal that it aims to inoculate 30-million people through the program this year—adding that more than 8,000 companies have signed up for it.

While companies have been placing orders, none of this has gotten to the point of vaccine delivery yet — and a timetable remains uncertain.