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Indonesian president warns not to rush vaccines amid halal concerns

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Indonesian President warns against rushing to roll out coronavirus vaccine

JAKARTA: The president of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, Mr Joko Widodo, yesterday called for Indonesia not to rush the roll-out of vaccines, citing concerns over public awareness about whether they were halal.

With more than 365,000 coronavirus cases and 12,000 deaths, Indonesia has struggled to get its outbreak under control and the government has been racing to secure a supply of vaccines while still under development, drawing criticism from some epidemiologists for seeking a "silver bullet" solution before full vaccine efficacy and safety is known.

Senior ministers have indicated that emergency vaccine authorisation could be granted as early as November.

But Mr Joko signalled a more cautionary approach, warning against haste and urging clear public messaging about whether vaccines were halal, or permissible under Islam.

"I ask that this vaccine is not rushed because it's so complex," Mr Joko said.

"I want to ensure there is good preparation. On public communication, especially in relation to halal and haram, the price, and quality."

Indonesia had previously pledged to vaccinate more than 100 million people next year, but Mr Joko said yesterday that the scale of inoculation in an archipelagic nation of 270 million would be uniquely challenging.

Indonesia has secured 50 million doses from China's Sinovac by March next year and 100 million from AstraZeneca by next April, in addition to other deals.

Meanwhile, Malaysia recorded 865 new Covid-19 infections yesterday, making it the third day in a row of cases being above the 800 mark.

Health director-general Nor Hisham Abdullah said there were three new deaths, bringing the death toll to 190.

The bulk of the new cases were from Sabah, with 643 infections. Selangor was next highest with 107 cases.

The Philippines yesterday recorded 2,638 infections and 26 deaths. Total cases hit 359,169, while its death toll had risen to 6,675.

Worldwide coronavirus cases crossed 40 million yesterday, according to a Reuters tally.

The US, India, and Brazil remain the worst affected countries in the world. Covid-19 cases in North, Central, and South America represent about 47.27 per cent, or nearly half of global cases. - REUTERS, THE STAR