Homegrown Covid-19 vaccine in Indonesia finally to be tested on humans

Airlangga University and Biotis Pharmaceutical Indonesia are leading research on the “Merah Putih” (“Red White”) vaccine, which is named after the colors of the Indonesian national flag.

Since its inception in 2020, the project has been delayed, but if the trials are successful, authorities hope to be able to deploy it by the middle of 2022.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Indonesia’s health minister, said the medicine, which would be rolled out in the last stages of the country’s immunization campaign, might be donated to other countries as a booster shot or a vaccine for children aged three to six.

“I have discussed this matter with the president and he has agreed to use this vaccine as a donation to countries in need,” Sadikin said Wednesday at a launch event for the human trials in Surabaya.

The first and second phases of the clinical trials will involve 90 and 405 adult volunteers respectively.

The Merah Putih vaccine has been granted a “halal” certification from the Indonesian Ulema Council, the Muslim majority nation’s top religious clerics body, according to the dean of Airlangga University Mohammad Nasih.

“We hope with this halal certification, the public confidence to use this vaccine will be higher,” Nasih told reporters.

Indonesia has approved 13 vaccines and boosters but has primarily used the Chinese-made jabs, and has struggled to procure enough doses for its population of more than 270 million people.

The Indonesian government has stressed the importance of developing and manufacturing national vaccines since the beginning of the pandemic.

The country was ravaged by Covid-19 in July last year as the Delta variant swept the country.

Daily cases declined significantly at the end of the year but the spread of Omicron recently brought the country back to 30,000 confirmed cases a day.

In total, Southeast Asia’s largest economy has reported over 4.5 million confirmed cases with nearly 145,000 deaths.

Vaccination rollout is also relatively slow with around 48 percent of the population vaccinated with two jabs and only five million with a booster shot

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