For the lay people in the street, the research to find vaccine is for the sake of humanity, in order to help the world community to recover from diseases such as coronavirus. In general such statement is true. However, it is actually also for the sake of nationalism of each country to contest the status of who deserve to earn the “credit” or name, obtain patents and revenue billions of dollars annually from the sale of products from the said research. Therefore, the public may be surprised that in a competition like this it also involves the ministry of defense, ministry of foreign affairs and state intelligence agencies. This explains that the manufacture of a vaccine of the coronavirus-19 is becoming the domain of sovereignty of a country.
Since the deadly coronavirus started to spread around the world, global powers such as the United States, China, Japan and European countries have been racing “fast” to make their respective countries the number one in producing vaccine. This competition brings the nuances of nationalism of those countries to be the “winners”; so that their global pharmaceutical companies could dominate the world in producing and distributing it. It seems that there has been a “motto” that “my country must hold monopoly rights” in this regard.
Donald Trump when he became president of the United States once revealed that his country as the strongest country on the planet is conducting clinical trials of coronavirus vaccine and will soon produce it. In front of top executives of American pharmaceutical companies, Trump assured that the coronavirus vaccine would be produced in the United States and the country would control its distribution.
China as the second richest country after the United States in the aftermath of initial outbreak of corona-19 reportedly deployed 1,000 scientists’ working day and night to conduct research on the vaccine and has become a military realm because it involves its Military Academy of Military Medical Sciences and recruits many volunteers for trials. Wang Junzhi, a quality control expert on Chinese biological products said that “China does not want to miss out on other countries.” Rich countries in Europe such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany do the same.
In short, developed countries are well aware that biotechnology is a strategic industry for their respective countries. Those countries are indeed up to now racing to make advanced war machines, such as drones, stealth fighters and cyber weapons. But they are also racing to keep the drug industry – especially to deal with this coronavirus – from falling into foreign hands.
Developing countries (such as Indonesia) and poor country in the world only becomes the consumers of these rich countries in the race to manufacture and spread the vaccine.
Indonesia, as a large archipelagic country certainly understands such unbalanced conditions in the field of vaccine mastery, therefore various parties such as government-owned research institutions and Airlangga University (UNAIR) Surabaya seriously endeavor to make national owned vaccines or national owned medical products so as not to depend heavily on foreign countries. Research institutes in Airlangga University – the Institute of Tropical Disease has been conducting researches to produce what we called “Merah Putih (Red and White)” Vaccine in its attempt to cope the problems of corona pandemic. The term Red and White refers to the two colors of Indonesian national flag and also refers to symbol of nationalism. Other research institution like Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology Jakarta has also been conducting the same effort.
Given the strategic research of this vaccine – because it is not only humanitarian research but is also about nationalism and sovereignty, the Indonesian government must properly guarantee the security of this research process since it concerns the security of the country. Vaccine researchers in various places in the country should be protected by the state. I’m not an intelligence expert, but from the intelligence point of view these researchers have to work quietly, not be bothered, focus on their work and be protected. Thus, it should be realized that health/biological research institutions in Indonesia such as the Institute of Tropical Disease of Universtas Airlangga, Eijkman in Jakarta, R&D of Ministry of Health Jakarta, and other institutions belonging to prestigious universities such as UI, UGM, IPB etc. are strategic institutions of the country.
Rector of Airlangga University Professor Mohammad Nasih informed the media crew recently explained that the Red and White vaccine initiated by Airlangga University (UNAIR) is still in trial phase and will be launched this year. What UNAIR does in conducting research and making the vaccine not only as an effort to fulfill its obligation to implement “Tri Dharma Perguruan Tinggi” (Three Pillars of Indonesian Higher Education comprising Education, Research and Community Service), but more than that UNAIR wants to be part of country’ stakeholders in upholding the sovereignty of the nation.