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Opinion: Indonesia’s Unorthodox Vaccination Strategy Puts the Economy First

January 31, 2021, 02.59 PM

However, Tarmizi said that the younger age group "plays an important role in economic activities that support families. They move the economy, and therefore we give priority to those aged 18-59 years."

The economy is the keyword in this statement.

Jokowi has often said he wants to push Indonesia's economy forward, aiming for a seven percent growth target. That growth target was never realized during his first term, which ended in 2019 with the economy growing at around five percent.

He wanted to make growth a reality in his second term. But then Covid-19 happened.

In November 2020, Indonesia's economy entered a recession for the first time in two decades. It shrank 3.49 percent on an annual basis in the third quarter, as losses were experienced in almost every sector as Covid-19 cases rose.

An economic argument for saving lives

The decision to prioritize the working-age population is an indication that the Indonesian government urgently needs to restart the economy.

Also readOptimism Grows for Rebound of Indonesian Economy, Boosted by Vaccine Hopes

Giving younger people vaccinations first would be controversial in other countries, but many Indonesians have welcomed the plan. More people have been worried about losing their jobs than getting sick.

In October, Jokowi, defended his decision not to impose province or city-wide lockdowns in places where cases were surging, arguing hurting livelihoods also harms the public.

"Prioritizing health matters does not mean we have to sacrifice the economy, because sacrificing the economy is equal to sacrificing the lives of tens of millions of people," the president said.

Only time can tell whether this unorthodox vaccination strategy works out like the government hopes it will.

And if so, will the faster-than-expected economic recovery provide enough comfort to the thousands of Indonesians who have lost elderly relatives to Covid-19?

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