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The other way around: the country that bets on vaccinating the youngest first, why?

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Kamal Saini
Kamal S. has been Journalist and Writer for Business, Hardware and Gadgets at Revyuh.com since 2018. He deals with B2b, Funding, Blockchain, Law, IT security, privacy, surveillance, digital self-defense and network policy. As part of his studies of political science, sociology and law, he researched the impact of technology on human coexistence. Email: kamal (at) revyuh (dot) com

Contrary to the criteria adopted by the countries that have already developed their vaccination plans against COVID-19, Indonesia took a different path. Instead of prioritizing the groups most vulnerable to coronavirus, the strategy is to vaccinate the youngest and most active population first. Why?

It is true that around the COVID-19 pandemic there has been confusion, concern and even distrust of the various vaccines developed to immunize us against SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, prioritizing the population groups most vulnerable to the disease appeared to be a unanimous criterion in each country’s vaccination plans.

At a global level, governments are prioritizing first immunizing health professionals (most exposed to contagion), adults over 65 and people with comorbidities. This is not the case in Indonesia, which is preparing to vaccinate its population in a path opposite to that adopted by other countries: the younger and more active population is the priority to receive the first doses of the vaccine against COVID-19.

Vaccination against COVID-19: why does Indonesia prioritize younger people?

Although the Southeast Asian country also chose to vaccinate, first, health professionals and workers on the so-called front line, they are followed by economically active groups between 18 to 59 years old, Reuters reported.

The reason is linked to the theory of herd immunity: Indonesia is committed to achieving herd immunity faster than other countries that have already started vaccinating their population, such as Argentina, the United States and the United Kingdom. 

The age group stipulated as a priority is not only the one that is currently working, but it is also the one that is most often on the move and in contact with other people. In this sense, it is considered that it is, in turn, the one that comprises the group with the most possibilities of infecting and being infected. 

If the strategy succeeds, they kill two birds with one stone: They protect those who keep the economy going while also preventing a further spread of the coronavirus. 

The vaccination strategy in Indonesia: effective or risky?

First, as the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech of China was tested in people between the age of 18 and 59, its effectiveness in the eldest population is not yet known. Although the Indonesian government does not “oppose the trend,” they are awaiting recommendations from the country’s drug regulators to determine vaccination plans for this population, says Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior official from the Ministry of Health, as cited by Reuters.

In principle, it has an agreement to receive 125.5 million doses, plus, they have already received the delivery of three million doses. Vaccines from Oxford and AstraZeneca to be received in the second quarter, and from Pfizer, it is expected in the third quarter only.

“I don’t think anybody can get too dogmatic about what is the right approach” in determining who to vaccinate first, Peter Collignon, professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, told Reuters. In his view, it is possible that the decision taken by Indonesia slows the spread of the disease more quickly, although it may maintain mortality. 

“Indonesia doing it different to the U.S. and Europe is of value, because it will tell us (whether) you’ll see a more dramatic effect in Indonesia than Europe or U.S. because of the strategy they’re doing, but I don’t think anybody knows the answer,” he further added.

For Professor Dale Fisher from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore was optimistic about Indonesia’s decision said that “Younger working adults are generally more active, more social and travel more so this strategy should decrease community transmission faster than vaccinating older individuals.” 

“Of course older people are more at risk of severe disease and death so vaccinating those has an alternative rationale. I see merit in both strategies.”

Can you save the Indonesian economy?

Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s largest economy, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put the country in its first recession in more than two decades, and the government expects a contraction of up to 2.2%.

For Faisal Rahman, an economist at Bank Mandiri, the 18-59 age group is strategic because it has higher consumption needs than other groups.

“They could jack up the economic recovery faster because household consumption contributes more than 50% to Indonesia’s economy,” he told Reuters.

Herd immunity, myth or reality?

When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated at one of his first press conferences on the COVID-19 pandemic that his government would bet on the herd immunity strategy, international scientists warned that opting for that option at this point was not a viable alternative until at least the end of 2020.

It didn’t take long for cases to rise sharply in Britain and Johnson should backtrack, and put in place stricter social distancing measures for the British population. 

Now, a year after the first outbreaks of the disease, the situation is different for Indonesia: the country of 268 million people has almost 700,000 people recovered and another 850,000 in the course of the disease. Now, it also has a vaccine to immunize its inhabitants.

Eventually, herd immunity will be a fact, whether sought or out of fatigue, but the Indonesian government believes that the decision to vaccinate the most active will speed up its procedures, Indonesia Health Minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin told Reuters. 

However, it is still too early to secure something, as it is not yet proven whether or not one vaccine person can transmit the virus to another. “There could be a risk that people will continue to be able to pass the disease on to others,” Hasbullah Thabrany, head of the Indonesian Economic Health Association, explained.

However, it is still too early to be able to ensure something, since it is not yet proven whether a vaccinated person can transmit the virus to another. 

“There could be the risk of people still capable of spreading the disease to the others,” explained Hasbullah Thabrany, head of the Indonesian Health Economic Association.

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