Indonesia pauses distribution of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccine

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A healthcare worker prepares a dose of AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine during a mass vaccination program for Green Zone Tourism in Sanur, Bali, Indonesia, March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Nyimas Laula

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JAKARTA, May 16 (Reuters) - Indonesia has suspended distribution of a batch of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) coronavirus vaccine to run tests for sterility and toxicity following the death of a 22-year-old man a day after immunisation, the health ministry said on Sunday.

The "CTMAV547" batch consists of 448,480 vaccine doses that arrived in the Southeast Asian nation last month - part of a delivery of more than 3.85 million doses from the COVAX Facility, backed by the World Health Organization.

Some of the doses have been distributed in the capital city Jakarta and the province of North Sulawesi, as well as given to the military, the ministry said in a statement.

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A national committee in charge of monitoring the effects of novel coronavirus vaccination launched an investigation earlier this month after a 22-year-old man in Jakarta died a day after receiving an AstraZeneca shot.

The man received his dose from the CTMAV547 batch, health ministry spokeswoman Siti Nadia Tarmizi told Reuters.

"This is a form of caution by the government to ensure the safety of this vaccine," she said in a statement, adding that distribution of other batches of AstraZeneca vaccines will not be affected.

The batch test could take at least two weeks, said the head of the vaccine monitoring committee, Hindra Irawan Satari.

"After it is proven that it is sterile and does not contain toxins, the use of the vaccine will be resumed. The fastest we can get the results will be in two weeks," he said.

AstraZeneca Indonesia said it "respects" the government's decision about the temporary suspension.

"We share the government's value that patient safety is the highest priority and AstraZeneca has robust processes in place for the collection, analysis, and reporting of adverse events," it said in the statement.

Since the start of the pandemic early last year, Indonesia has recorded around 1.74 million cases of infection of the novel coronavirus that causes the potentially fatal COVID-19 respiratory disease. The country's death toll stands at 48,093 as of Sunday.

The government has been pushing to accelerate its vaccination programme to control the spread of the virus. Official data showed that as of Sunday, nearly 9 million people have been fully vaccinated.

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Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Clarence Fernandez Writing by Fransiska Nangoy

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