WHITE HOUSE – As Indonesia deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Biden administration is sending three million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine to the country on July 9, a senior administration official tells VOA.
The shipment is one of the largest batches the U.S. has donated, the official said. In total, the U.S. has allocated four million doses for Indonesia, with the remaining one million doses to be shipped “soon.”
The administration is also sending 500,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Moldova, the first batch of U.S. vaccine shared with Europe.
Indonesia is battling a record-breaking surge in new cases and deaths, due to the highly contagious delta variant.
“We recognize the difficult situation Indonesia currently finds itself in with a surge of COVID-19 cases,” said the Biden administration official. “Our thoughts are with all those in Indonesia affected by this surge. We support the Indonesian people as they fight this surge and are doing everything we can to help them in this time of need.”
During a Friday press conference, Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi confirmed the shipment.
“This is the first shipment through the COVAX mechanism,” Marsudi said, referring to the United Nations vaccine sharing mechanism.
Indonesia relies heavily on Chinese vaccines, with only about 5% of its population fully vaccinated. The country has procured 108.5 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine but is seeing rising infections among medical workers fully vaccinated with it.
After several fully inoculated medical personnel died from COVID-19, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Friday the government would give 1.47 million health workers an extra shot using the Moderna vaccine.
“The third jab will only be given to health workers, because health workers are the ones who are exposed to high levels of virus every day,” he told a press conference. “They must be protected at all costs.”
The Indonesian government authorized the Moderna vaccine for emergency use last week.
Broader COVID-19 response efforts
The senior White House official said that in addition to vaccines, the administration is moving forward on plans to increase assistance for Indonesia’s broader COVID-19 response efforts.
“To date, we have provided more than $14.5 million in direct COVID-19 relief to Indonesia, including $3.5 million to help vaccinate Indonesians quickly and safely,” the official said.
The official added that support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, has also provided Jakarta with public health education, trained thousands of health workers, funded a national COVID-19 information website that has reached more than 36 million people, and donated COVID-19 testing equipment, 1,000 ventilators, and nearly 2,000 handwashing stations.
The four-million-dose vaccine shipment to Indonesia is part of the 80 million doses the U.S. has allocated to help countries in need, on top of the 500 million doses it has committed to COVAX.
Activists say it is not enough.
“We need far more from the United States and other countries that have surpluses to share,” said Tom Hart, acting CEO of the ONE Campaign, a nonprofit group that fights global poverty and disease.
According to CDC data, most U.S. states have administered at least 75 percent of their first vaccine dose.
Hart pointed out that in some countries, less than one percent of people have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have locked up in the United States and the G-7 and other EU countries, the global supply of the very thing to end this pandemic,” said Hart. “And so far, not sharing at nearly the pace or scale that we need to reach what’s the global herd immunity that will make all of us safe.”
Eva Mazrieva contributed to this report, which includes some information from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.