The government has been asked to accelerate its efforts to expand coverage of the Covid-19 vaccination program with an aim to prevent a spike in Covid-19 cases.
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After the Delta variant that triggered a second wave of Covid-19 transmission in the June-August period, it is feared that another viral mutation could trigger an explosion of cases in Indonesia. Moreover, next month will see the XX Papua National Games (PON) XX Papua held from 2 Oct. to 15 Oct., which will draw a gathering of many people. In addition, the next three months will see mass community mobility during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
With regard to the limited vaccine supply, Indonesia is advised to prioritize distribution of the first and second vaccine doses, particularly for inoculating the elderly, rather than for administering boosters. Even though vaccination does not guarantee that people will not contract SARS-CoV-2, the evidence shows that the vaccines provide protection and prevent developing severe symptoms and dying from Covid-19.
At the national level, Health Ministry data show that first dose vaccine coverage for all groups is still at 38.35 percent, while second dose coverage is 21.8 percent. In the four regencies/cities hosting PON events, 62.7 percent of residents have received their first dose thus far, while 39 percent have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated.
We need to learn from Japan\'s experience in hosting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics from 23 July to 8 Aug. 2021. Tokyo\'s daily cases surged threefold during the Olympics, even though the committee implemented strict health protocols through the "Olympic bubble" and mandatory PCR tests for all people involved in the international sporting event.
The total cases in Japan also doubled compared to previous months. At that time, Japan was in the midst of the summer holiday season and also saw transmission of the Delta variant of the virus. As of mid-August, 36 percent of all Japanese citizens had been fully vaccinated. This figure is higher than the percentage of the Indonesian population who are fully vaccinated at present.
In Indonesia, the vaccination rollout has not been evenly distributed, particularly outside Java. Therefore, many citizens are not protected against Covid-19. The vaccines given are generally Sinovac’s CoronaVac, which showed an efficacy of 65.3 percent in the clinical trials. This means that it only decreases Covid-19 cases in the vaccinated group by 65.3 percent compared to those who have not been vaccinated.
Tracing, testing, and recording cases are still far from perfect. In many regions, the situation on the ground during the public activity restrictions (PPKM) is not very different from normal. Many people are still gathering in groups without masks. There is also the possibility that asymptomatic people and even people with mild symptoms of Covid-19 could easily move around and potentially transmit the virus.
Therefore, the risk of a spike in cases is relatively large, especially because the Delta variant is still circulating. In addition to accelerating the expansion of vaccination coverage, strict implementation of the health protocols is necessary, not only at PON, but also in the citizens’ daily lives.