By Stanley Widianto
BANDUNG, Indonesia (Reuters) - Human trials on a potential coronavirus vaccine are due to start in Indonesia next week as part of a collaboration between state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma and China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd, a senior researcher said.
The launch of the vaccine trial comes as Indonesia has struggled to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, with a consistently escalating number of cases.
The phase 3 clinical trial is set to begin on Aug. 11 and will involve 1,620 volunteers aged between 18 and 59, Professor Kusnandi Rusmil, head researcher at Bandung’s Padjadjaran University, told reporters.
Half of the participants will receive the vaccine over a six-month period, while the rest will receive a placebo, he said, noting 800 volunteers had been signed up so far.
"We want to have our vaccines so we can use it for our people," Rusmil told reporters.
As of Wednesday, Indonesia had recorded 116,871 coronavirus infections and 5,432 deaths - the highest in East Asia.
The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a global race for a vaccine, with more than 100 in development and about a dozen already being tested on humans.
As Indonesia seeks to stem an ongoing wave of infections, the government has been vocal about the need to secure sufficient supplies of a vaccine amid concerns some nations may miss out.
Erick Thohir, Indonesia’s minister for state-owned enterprises, sought to reassure the public this week, saying that Bio Farma would be ready by year-end to produce 250 million doses a year should the Sinovac vaccine prove successful. [L4N2F635B]
The Sinovac trial is one of several collaborations to produce a vaccine underway in the world's fourth-most populous nation.
(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Davies)