SURABAYA: Indonesia launched human testing of a domestic COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday (Feb 9) after receiving approval from the drug authority, as the country faced a surge in viral cases.
Airlangga University and Biotis Pharmaceutical Indonesia are leading research on the “Merah Putih” (Red White) vaccine, named after the colors of the Indonesian national flag.
The project has been delayed since its inception in 2020, but officials now hope to have it operational by the middle of 2022 if the testing are successful.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the medicine, which would be used in the last phases of Indonesia’s immunization campaign, may be donated to other countries as a booster shot or as a vaccine for children aged three to six.
“I addressed this with the president, and he agreed to use this vaccine as a donation to countries in need,” Sadikin said on Wednesday at the start of the human trials in Surabaya.
The clinical trials’ first and second phases will comprise 90 and 405 adult volunteers, respectively.
According to the dean of Airlangga University, Mohammad Nasih, the Merah Putih vaccination has received “halal” certification from the Indonesian Ulema Council, the Muslim majority nation’s main religious clerical body.
“We think that with this halal certification, the public would have more confidence in using this vaccine,” Nasih told reporters.
Indonesia has approved 13 vaccinations and boosters, but has mostly used Chinese-made vaccines and has failed to obtain enough doses for its population of over 270 million people.
Since the onset of the epidemic, the Indonesian government has emphasized the significance of researching and manufacturing national vaccinations.
The country was devastated by COVID-19 in July of last year, when the Delta version rushed through.
Daily instances dropped dramatically at the end of the year, but the spread of Omicron has recently returned the country to 30,000 confirmed cases each day.