Indonesia will offer booster shots of vaccines against the novel coronavirus early next year after all of the targeted population have been vaccinated, a Cabinet minister said Wednesday.
Indonesia aims to vaccinate over 208 million of its 270 million people. As of Wednesday, about 33 million people have been fully inoculated.
"If all of (the targeted population) have been fully vaccinated by January, the booster for the general public can start immediately after that," health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a hearing with parliamentarians aired live on social media.
"The booster has been clinically proven effective to give better protection from COVID-19," he added.
At present, Indonesia only gives booster shots to medical workers, who have been exposed most to the coronavirus through treating infected patients.
Most of the medical workers received their first and second doses of CoronaVac vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
The third jabs, using Moderna vaccine developed by U.S. company Moderna Inc. and recently donated by the U.S. government, have been given since mid-July to the medical workers. As of Wednesday, 34 percent of 1.47 million medical workers have been inoculated.
According to Sadikin, however, the government will only pay the boosters for low-income recipients of government health insurance. Others must pay for the boosters, but they will be free to choose which COVID-19 vaccines they get.
"The price will be around $7 or $8," the minister said.
The World Health Organization has called for halting the use of coronavirus booster shots until at least the end of September to help ensure access to the vaccines in developing countries, some of which have been unable to secure doses even for medical workers.
As of Wednesday, the cumulative total of Indonesia's coronavirus infections exceeds 4 million with almost 130,000 fatalities.