KEY POINTS

  • Novilia Sjafri Bachtiar was the head of dozens of clinical trials being run by Indonesia's BioPharma
  • At least 50 Indonesian health care workers 'died of COVID-19 in July'
  • Indonesia is one of the countries where the SinoVac vaccine has been most widely used

The lead scientist of China’s SinoVac vaccine trials in Indonesia has died of COVID-19, Indonesian media reported. 

Novilia Sjafri Bachtiar was the head of dozens of clinical trials being conducted by state-owned pharmaceuticals company BioPharma, including the SinoVac vaccine trials. The company is also producing the vaccine. 

State enterprises minister Erick Thohir posted a message on his social media account mourning the death of the scientist. While he did not provide a cause of her death, local news service Kumparan said Novilia died of COVID-19, Reuters reported. 

Independent data group Lapor COVID-19 was cited as saying by CNN that 131 healthcare workers in Indonesia, mostly vaccinated with the SinoVac shot, have died since June, including 50 in July.

Indonesia is one of the countries where the SinoVac vaccine has been most widely used. But the infections and deaths of health workers in the country have prompted concern over the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing hospitalizations and deaths. 

A study conducted in Brazil earlier this year found that the SinoVac shot was 50% effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19. A separate study conducted in Chile found the vaccine to be 67% effective against symptomatic coronavirus infections, 85% effective in preventing hospitalizations and 80% in preventing deaths.

The research done in Chile was conducted from February through May when the Alpha and Gamma variants were spreading across the country. There is currently very little research done on the effectiveness of the SinoVac shot against the more contagious Delta variant, which is believed to be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha strain, according to WebMD.

In June, Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the antibodies given by “two” Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines were not as effective against the Delta variant compared with other strains, according to the South China Morning Post

It is unclear which two vaccines the Chinese deputy director was referring to.

Indonesia surpassed 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths reported in a single day for the first time on Wednesday. Indonesian health officials also recorded 34,379 new infections in the latest wave fueled by the Delta variant. 

A medical staff member prepares to administer a dose of the Sinovac vaccine on a mobile vaccine truck in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia A medical staff member prepares to administer a dose of the Sinovac vaccine on a mobile vaccine truck in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Photo: AFP / Mohd RASFAN