A historic arrival: Indonesia receives its first shipment of COVAX vaccines

More than 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine land in Jakarta to help reduce mortality rates, protect health systems and resume critical services.

UNICEF Indonesia
COVAX vaccines arrive in Indonesia
08 March 2021

JAKARTA, Indonesia – It was nearly one year ago when the first COVID-19 cases were announced in Indonesia. Little was known at the time about the mysterious virus as it swept across the world, shutting down entire countries and affecting countless aspects of everyday life. 

In the early evening hours of March 8, a return to pre-pandemic life became one step closer when a plane carrying more than 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses landed at Soekarno Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. The vaccines were shipped and delivered by the COVAX Facility, a global vaccine-sharing initiative co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), with UNICEF as a key implementing partner.

COVAX first arrival in Indonesia

The need to vaccinate against COVID-19 is urgent. Since March 2020, Indonesia has reported more than one million infections, the most in Southeast Asia. Schools across much of the country are still closed, forcing millions of students to continue learning remotely. Critical health services for children have also been disrupted, causing a sharp decline in child immunization coverage. Many young people have reported challenges to their mental health as well as their families’ livelihoods. 

“The delivery of these vaccines is a critical step toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic. With every round of vaccination, a return to normalcy becomes a stronger reality. With every vaccine dose, more people are protected. With every teacher vaccinated, more children have the potential to return to school.” 

UNICEF Representative Debora Comini

To control the pandemic, Indonesia launched its COVID-19 vaccination programme in January 2021 with the aim of inoculating two-thirds of its population— or 181.5 million people – within 15 months. Nearly 1.5 million health workers have already been vaccinated, while public workers and the elderly are among the groups currently receiving their shots during the second phase of the campaign. 

With support from donors such as the European Union and DFAT among others, the doses received through COVAX are intended to bolster the vaccination programme and protect priority groups in the country. By providing 20 per cent of the total number of vaccines needed, free of charge to participating countries, COVAX aims to help reduce mortality rates, protect health systems and resume critical services.

A nurse prepares a syringe for vaccination
On 16 June 2020, a nurse prepares a syringe for vaccination at the Tegalrejo Community Health Centre in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

There is no higher priority for our region than access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which will help Indonesia and the region reopen and recover.

Gary Quinlan, Australian Ambassador to Indonesia

Since the beginning of the pandemic, UNICEF has supported the COVID-19 response in Indonesia with critical supplies, assistance and lifesaving information. For several months, UNICEF, WHO and other partners have provided technical assistance to strengthen the country’s supply and cold chains to provide adequate infrastructure to transport and store the COVID-19 vaccines for delivery. They have also built the capacities of health workers and worked with communities in addressing misinformation and increasing acceptance of safe vaccines. 

COVAX is a success story of solidarity and multilateralism, of working together to solve the biggest global challenge we face

Vincent Piket, EU Ambassador to Indonesia
A health worker checks vials of vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccine doses, which were sent from AstraZeneca’s hub in Amsterdam, is the first batch of the 11.7 million doses allocated to Indonesia under the COVAX Facility until May. They represent a first step in what will be the largest global vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. COVAX’s overall ambition by the end of 2021 is to procure and supply 2 billion vaccines to all countries participating in the COVAX Facility. As the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and supply doses of the COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the COVAX Facility. 

COVAX vaccine arrives in Indonesia