Indonesia finds COVID deaths more than three times higher for the unvaccinated

FILE PHOTO: People raise the Indonesian flags during a mass vaccination program at the Jakarta Convention Center building in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 31, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

JAKARTA (Reuters) - The COVID-19 death rate for people in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta who were not vaccinated was more than three times higher than those who were, according to new health ministry data.

The mortality rate of those who were not vaccinated was 15.5% compared with 4.1% for those who had received two shots of either the Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine, according to data from state hospitals and almost 68,000 patients in Jakarta from May to July.

The Southeast Asian country has been overwhelmed in recent months by a rapid spike in coronavirus cases, and on Wednesday it passed a grim milestone, recording a total of more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. [L4N2PB231]

Global data on vaccinated versus unvaccinated deaths is not easily available but Dr Ines Atmosukarto, a molecular biologist who works on vaccine development, said the data was further evidence of the importance of vaccination.

"This supports the proposition that two doses of vaccines reduces the chance of dying for those infected and requiring hospitalisation,” she said, adding that the data lacked detail about the age, comorbidity and period of observation of the patients.

Separately, data from the town of Banyuwangi on Java island, showed that 93% of COVID patients who died from March to July were not vaccinated, while 6% percent had received a first dose, and 1% had been fully vaccinated.

Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines were also the vaccines predominately administered in that area.

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health ministry official, said the data could help combat vaccine hesitancy in Indonesia.

In Indonesia, 18% of the population have had one dose of a vaccine, while 8% are fully vaccinated, according to health ministry data. Indonesia has had 100,600 deaths.

By comparison, in India 27.7% of the population have had one dose of a vaccine and 7.8 % are fully vaccinated, according to according to government data and research by Reuters. India has had 425,700 deaths.

Grappling with the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant that was first identified in India, Indonesia has quickly become Asia’s coronavirus epicentre, now recording more than 3.5 million cases in total since the start of the pandemic.

But as cases have begun to drop in Jakarta and some areas on Java, with the health minister saying this week the country has reached the peak of its second wave, concerns remain that Delta could still ravage far-flung regions ill-equipped to handle a health crisis.

Irma Hidayana, a public health expert and co-founder of independent data initiative Lapor COVID-19 said that vaccine distribution issues, including infrastructure and data, as well as vaccine hesitancy, had hampered the government’s vaccine rollout.

“The ministry of health needs to have well planned vaccine distribution that ensures all vulnerable people are top priority,” she said, “The government must ensure that vaccines are evenly and equally distributed.”

(Reporting by Kate Lamb in Sydney and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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