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Hundreds of vaccinated Indonesian health workers get COVID-19, dozens in hospital

More than 350 doctors and medical workers have caught COVID-19 in Indonesia despite being vaccinated with Sinovac and dozens have been hospitalized, officials said, as concerns grow about the efficacy of some vaccines against more infectious variants.

Most of the workers were asymptomatic and self-isolating at home, said Badai Ismoyo, head of the health office in the district of Kudus in central Java, but dozens were in hospital with high fevers and falling oxygen-saturation levels.

Kudus, which has about 5,000 healthcare workers, is battling an outbreak believed to be driven by the more transmissible Delta variant, which has raised its bed occupancy rates above 90%.

Designated as a priority group, healthcare workers were among the first to be vaccinated when inoculations began in January.

Almost all have received the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) says.

While the number of Indonesian healthcare workers dying from COVID-19 has dropped sharply from 158 in January to 13 in May, according to data initiative group LaporCOVID-19, public health experts say the Java hospitalisations are cause for concern.

“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 at 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.