A recent report in Indonesia has found that more than 350 of their doctors and medical workers have contracted the COVID-19 virus despite being vaccinated with Sinovac, while dozens have been reportedly rushed to the hospital.
According to the officials, concerns have grown about the efficiency of some vaccines against more infectious variants.
Badai Ismoyo, head of the Kudus district health office in Central Java, said most of the doctors were asymptomatic and self-isolating at home, but dozens were hospitalised with high fevers and declining oxygen saturation levels.
He said Kudus is battling an outbreak believed to be driven by the more transmissible Delta variant, which has pushed bed occupancy rates above 90 percent in the district.
“Designated as a priority group, Indonesian healthcare workers were among the first to be vaccinated when the inoculation drive started in January,” he said.
Almost all have received the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, according to the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI).
Data initiative group called LaporCOVID-19, said that the number of Indonesian healthcare workers dying from COVID-19 has decreased significantly – dropping from 158 deaths in January to 13 in May, however the Java hospitalisations are cause for concern.
LaporCOVD-19 also reported that at least five doctors and one nurse have died from COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, although one had only received a first shot.
“The data shows they have the Delta variant [in Kudus] so it is no surprise that the breakthrough infection is higher than before because as we know, the majority of healthcare workers in Indonesia got Sinovac, and we still don’t know yet how effective it is in the real world against the Delta variant,” said Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist from Australia’s Griffith University.
A spokesperson from Sinovac was not immediately available for comment on the efficacy of the Chinese firm’s CoronaVac against newer variants of the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) approved emergency use of Sinovac’s vaccine this month, saying results showed it prevented symptomatic disease in 51% of recipients and prevented severe COVID-19 and hospital stays.
As Indonesia grappled with one of Asia’s worst outbreaks, with over 1.9 million infections and 53,000 deaths, its doctors and nurses have suffered a heavy toll of 946 deaths.
Many are now experiencing pandemic fatigue and taking a less vigilant approach to health protocols after being vaccinated, said Lenny Ekawati, from the independent health-linked data group LaporCOVID-19.
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health official, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many doctors have died since the vaccination program began.
In Kudus, one senior doctor has died, said IDI.
Nadia said there had been no deaths in Kudus since a new outbreak began in the past several weeks among medical workers and that those who contracted COVID-19 have had mild symptoms.
In Jakarta, the capital, radiologist Dr Prijo Sidipratomo told Reuters he knew of at least half a dozen doctors hospitalised with COVID-19 in the past month despite being vaccinated, with one now being treated in an ICU.
“It is alarming for us because we cannot rely on vaccinations only,” he said, urging people to take precautions.
Weeks after the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holidays, Indonesia has experienced a surge in cases, with the positivity rate exceeding 23 percent on Wednesday and daily cases nearing 10,000, its highest since late February.
In its latest report, the WHO urged Indonesia to tighten its lockdown amid increased transmission and a surge in bed occupancy rates.