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By Mohd Iswandi Kasan Anuar
JAKARTA, Jan 12 -- Indonesia rolled out booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, amid a surge in COVID-19 infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.
The elderly and vulnerable groups who received their second jabs at least six months ago are currently eligible to take the jab for free.
Indonesian health ministry estimates over 21 million people in the country being eligible for the programme.
On Tuesday, President Joko Widodo said a third dose is vital to shore up protection against the virus.
“That is why I have decided that the third dose will be available at no cost for all Indonesian people. Because, once again, people's safety is paramount,” the president said in a recorded statement.
He urged the people to continue complying with the health protocols, saying that “vaccination and discipline are key in battling the pandemic”.
A Bernama survey found eligible individuals turning up and forming long queues at Kramat Jati District Health Center, East Jakarta.
They include Abdul Rahman, 65, who was pleased to get the third dose.
“So far, no reaction like the first and the second dose. It is important for the common good because it would be troublesome if you get sick, you're likely to spread it to others,” he said.
Indonesia approved emergency authorisation for the use of five different COVID-19 vaccines as booster shots - Sinovac, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Zifivax.
The highly transmissive Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa in November last year and on Dec 16, 2021 in Indonesia.
The first case of locally transmitted case found in a 37-year-old man from the city of Medan on Dec 28.
As of Monday, the Omicron variant cases rose to 506 after 97 more people contracted the virus, including 84 local transmission cases, health ministry said.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases rose by 802 from the previous day to 4,267,451 cases as of Tuesday.
The number of deaths rose by eight to 144,144 and the number of recovered patients rose by 446 to 4,116,648. Indonesia has so far administered 289.71 million doses, including the third booster jabs.
According to Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Indonesia has made it to the world’s top five with the highest number of vaccinations.
The country ranks fourth after China, India, the United States, followed by Brazil in the fifth place.
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