WHITE HOUSE - As Indonesia deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Biden administration on Friday is sending the nation 3 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.
"In addition to the vaccines we're also sending, we're moving forward on plans to increase assistance for Indonesia's broader COVID-19 response efforts," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing to reporters Friday.
"We recognize the difficult situation Indonesia currently finds itself in with a surge of COVID cases. And our thoughts are with those affected by this surge."
Indonesia is battling a record-breaking surge in new cases and deaths due to the highly contagious delta variant.
A senior administration official told VOA the shipment was one of the largest batches the U.S. had donated. In total, the U.S. has allocated 4 million doses for Indonesia, with the remaining 1 million doses to be shipped "soon."
The administration is also sending 500,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Moldova, the first batch of U.S. vaccine shared with Europe. In addition, 1.5 million Johnson & Johnson doses will be sent to Nepal, and 500,000 Moderna doses to Bhutan.
During a Friday press conference, Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi confirmed the shipment.
"This is the first shipment through the COVAX mechanism," Marsudi said, referring to the United Nations vaccine-sharing mechanism.
Indonesia, with only about 5% of its population fully vaccinated, relies heavily on Chinese vaccines. The country has procured 108.5 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine but is seeing rising infection rates among medical workers fully vaccinated with it.
After several fully inoculated medical personnel had died from COVID-19, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Friday the government would give 1.47 million health workers a shot of the Moderna vaccine.
"The third jab will only be given to health workers, because health workers are the ones who are exposed to high levels of virus every day," he told a press conference. "They must be protected at all costs."
The Indonesian government authorized the Moderna vaccine for emergency use last week.
Broader COVID-19 response efforts
The senior White House official said that in addition to providing vaccines, the administration is moving forward on plans to increase assistance for Indonesia's broader COVID-19 response efforts.
"To date, we have provided more than $14.5 million in direct COVID-19 relief to Indonesia, including $3.5 million to help vaccinate Indonesians quickly and safely," the official said.
The official added that support from the U.S. Agency for International Development had also provided Jakarta with public health education, training for thousands of health workers, funding for a national COVID-19 information website that has reached more than 36 million people, COVID-19 testing equipment, 1,000 ventilators and nearly 2,000 hand-washing stations.
The 4 million-dose vaccine shipment to Indonesia is part of the 80 million doses the U.S. has allocated to help countries in need, on top of the 500 million doses it has committed to COVAX.
Activists say it is not enough.
“We need far more from the United States and other countries that have surpluses to share,” said Tom Hart, acting CEO of the ONE Campaign, a nonprofit group that fights global poverty and disease.
According to CDC data, most U.S. states have administered at least 75% of the first vaccine doses allocated to them.
Hart pointed out that in some countries, less than 1% of people have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
"We have locked up in the United States and the G-7 and other EU countries the global supply of the very thing to end this pandemic," Hart said. "And so far, not sharing at nearly the pace or scale that we need to reach what's the global herd immunity that will make all of us safe."
Responding to a question from VOA about plans to donate more doses, White House press secretary Psaki said the U.S. is already the largest contributor. Of the 1 billion doses pledged by wealthy nations of the G-7, some 580 billion are from the U.S.
"The president has made clear that we will continue to build from here, and we're working on manufacturing capacity around the world and in the United States and we will continue to contribute even beyond the billion doses," Psaki said.
Source: Voice Of America