Indonesia reports record Covid-19 deaths, considers booster shot

It loosened some curbs earlier this week and is mulling over booster shot

JAKARTA : Indonesia reported a record 2,069 Covid-19 deaths yesterday. The tally was nearly 600 deaths higher than the previous day and topped last week's daily record of 1,566 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

New infections also shot up to just over 45,000, from about 28,000 on Monday. Indonesia has more than 3.2 million cases and 86,835 deaths in total.

The data comes after Indonesia this week loosened virus curbs by allowing small shops, streetside restaurants and some shopping malls to reopen after a three-week partial lockdown.

Health experts warned it could trigger a fresh wave of cases, as the highly infectious Delta variant tears across the archipelago, which has overtaken India and Brazil to become the global pandemic epicentre.

Shopping malls and mosques in less affected parts of the country were also allowed to open from Monday but with limited crowds and shorter hours.

Offices were still under shutdown orders.

Indonesia, which uses the Sinovac vaccine as its main inoculation, is considering providing a booster shot, as a study showed antibodies provided by the two-dose shot fade over time, a senior Health Ministry official said yesterday.

The Sinovac vaccine accounts for more than fourth-fifths of 173 million doses of vaccine supplies the country has received.

Concerns about the vaccine's effectiveness have mounted in recent weeks as hundreds of medical workers, most of whom were fully vaccinated with the Sinovac shot, have died of Covid-19 since June.

A study published this week showed that antibodies triggered by the Sinovac vaccine declined below a key threshold from around six months after a second dose for most recipients, although a third shot had a strong booster effect.

While researchers said it was unclear how the decrease in antibodies would affect the shot's effectiveness, senior Health Ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi said the reduced antibody level is still enough to provide protection, based on clinical data from Indonesia.

"Right now, the immunisation advisory board recommends a booster vaccination 12 months after the second dose," she said, adding that the government is still considering whether the booster shots should be a one- or two-dose schedule.- AFP, REUTERS