Indonesia's top diplomat calls for 'equal access' to COVID-19 vaccines

Lucie Godeau and Peter Brieger, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 15 2020 01:34 AM

Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. RDado Ruvic, Reuters/File

JAKARTA - Developing countries must have 'equal access' to future COVID-19 vaccines, Indonesia's foreign minister warned, as wealthy nations scoop up billions of doses.

Retno Marsudi said it was crucial for rich and poor nations to work together so "we can guarantee equal access to a safe and affordable vaccine".

"Can you imagine...if most vaccines go to developed countries?" Marsudi told AFP in a video interview from London.

"What will be the fate of the developing countries?"

Marsudi's comments follow an Oxfam report last month that found a group of wealthy nations representing just 13 percent of the global population have already bought up more than half of the promised doses of future COVID-19 vaccines. 

Marsudi was to meet with UK-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca on Wednesday to cement a vaccine-dose deal for Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation with nearly 270 million people, which has struggled to contain soaring infection rates.

This week, Indonesia's COVID-19 response team chief, Airlangga Hartarto, said the country may secure 100 million doses of AstraZeneca's potential vaccine.

Marsudi declined to discuss details, but said: "I'm very optimistic we can secure a significant number of vaccines from AstraZeneca".

"The negotiation is still going on."

Marsudi is also slated to go to Switzerland as part of her country's bid to secure agreements for vaccine doses.

In August, Indonesia kicked off human trials of a vaccine candidate produced by China's Sinovac Biotech with some 1,600 volunteers taking part in the six-month study.

Indonesia, one of the hardest hit countries in Asia, has reported more than 340,000 cases of coronavirus and over 12,000 deaths. But, with some of the world's lowest testing rates, the true scale of its public health crisis is believed to be much greater.