Covid-19 killed 26 Indonesian doctors in June – at least 10 had taken Chinese Sinovac vaccine – .

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SINGAPORE — At least 10 of the 26 Indonesian doctors who died from Covid-19 this month had received both doses of the vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd., a medical association said, raising questions about the Chinese-made vaccine being used in many parts of the developing world.

The Indonesian Medical Association’s Covid-19 mitigation group is still working to verify the immunization status of the other 16, said Dr Adib Khumaidi, who heads the group. According to the group’s latest figures, over a five-month period, at least 20 doctors who were completely inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine died from Covid-19, accounting for more than a fifth of the total number of deaths among doctors in the country. during this period.

The toll could increase further in the coming weeks as the country faces an increase in infections and hospitals in the archipelago fill up.

Epidemiologists say the deaths must be properly investigated to determine whether factors such as poor hospital care or underlying chronic illnesses played a major role. They also say more data is needed, including on the total number of vaccinated doctors infected with Covid-19, which Indonesia’s health ministry says it is not tracking.

According to the medical association, around 90% of Indonesian doctors – around 160,000 in total – have been vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine, so the dead vaccinated doctors are only a tiny percentage of the total.

That some fully vaccinated Indonesian doctors have died from Covid-19 is not necessarily surprising, said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia in the UK. A combination of factors was probably at play, he said, including that the Sinovac vaccine was “probably not as effective a vaccine as most of the other vaccines on the market” and Indonesian hospitals have not. still the same machines and capacities to treat severe cases as hospitals in countries with stronger health systems.

Indonesia relies heavily on the Sinovac vaccine. The shot is approved by the World Health Organization for emergency use, but the efficacy levels of different clinical trials and the lack of transparency of the data have raised concerns among some public health experts about the degree of protection it also offers. how long the protection lasts.

Its effectiveness in preventing symptomatic infections was as low as around 50% in a study conducted in Brazil, although the vaccine showed higher effectiveness in preventing severe cases of Covid-19. Chilean authorities said in April that the shot was 80% effective against death from Covid-19 two weeks after a second dose.

Indonesian authorities said last month that a retrospective study comparing how vaccinated and unvaccinated doctors in the capital, Jakarta, behaved against Covid-19 showed Sinovac’s shot to be highly effective in preventing death . The study was conducted before the current wave of infections, which is in part due to the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus, which contributed to a devastating wave in India. It is not known how many doctors who died in Indonesia this month were infected with the strain.

A government spokeswoman said the individual circumstances of the doctors’ deaths must be investigated to draw conclusions about the vaccine. In some hard-hit areas of the country, such as Kudus in Central Java, most of the hundreds of vaccinated health workers who were infected with Covid-19 had mild symptoms and recovered quickly, the spokesperson said. , Siti Nadia Tarmizi. “You really can’t say that Sinovac is not ideal,” she said.

Data collected by the medical association shows that the death toll among doctors is down from the country’s last wave in December and January, when vaccinations had just started and about 60 doctors died over the course of each of the two months of Covid-19. So far in June, 26 doctors have died.

In Surabaya, a large city in the province of East Java, a 54-year-old radiologist named Eko Sonny Tejolaksito died of the disease in early June. He had been fully vaccinated with Sinovac’s vaccine earlier in the year, said Dr Catur Budi Keswardiono, a close friend of his who worked with him at a hospital in a nearby town. Dr Eko suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes, Dr Catur said, making him more vulnerable to complications from Covid-19.

When Dr Eko tested positive for the disease, his condition was not particularly serious and he sought treatment at a local hospital that did not have an intensive care unit. However, his health deteriorated rapidly over the next two days and preparations were made to transfer him to a hospital equipped with a ventilator, Dr Catur said. Dr Eko died before he could be moved.

The deaths should prompt authorities to consider booster shots, said Jin Dong-Yan, professor of molecular virology at the University of Hong Kong. Medical workers in Indonesia should be given another dose of Sinovac’s vaccine or a vaccine developed in the United States to provide stronger protection, he said. Dr Adib from the Indonesian Medical Association’s Covid-19 Mitigation Unit also said booster shots may be needed, adding: “We don’t know how long the antibodies last. “

Write to Jon Emont at [email protected]

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