by Dames Alexander Sinaga
JAKARTA, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- At a community health center in Jakarta, senior citizens Sri Rejeki Handayani and her husband Indra Tjahya Husni received COVID-19 booster shots on Wednesday, the first day of Indonesia's COVID-19 booster program.
"I believe we'll be much safer with the booster," Husni told Xinhu as hundreds more people queued up to get their shots.
According to President Joko Widodo, boosters are free of charge for all Indonesians at state-owned healthcare facilities. Indonesia's food and drug agency has authorized use of Sinovac, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Zifivax boosters for those over 18 who had their second shots over six months ago. The elderly and immunocompromised are given priority.
Health authorities on Wednesday reported that more than 170 million people have received their first doses of vaccines, while over 117 million have had a second. Both Handayani and Husni received first and second doses of Sinovac and were given the Pfizer boosters.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a press conference that those who had received Sinovac vaccine for their first and second doses would be given Pfizer or AstraZeneca boosters. Those who received AstraZeneca vaccine would be given Moderna.
Omicron infections in Indonesia are increasing. On Monday, health authorities reported 92 new cases, bringing the total tally of Omicron cases to 506 with an expected peak in early February.
Indonesia, home to some 270 million people, grappled with a second wave of infections in July last year, but the government is now "much more prepared" to fight the Omicron variant.
Senior citizens like Handayani and Husni are key to the government's campaign. The couple said they were going to persuade others in the neighborhood to get their booster shots too.