Social Media Influencers Among First To Be Vaccinated In Indonesia
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the country's senior health ministry official, said the move has been a deliberate government communications strategy, amid widespread scepticism in the vaccine.
According to Reuters, Indonesia faces the most severe coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia, with more than 869,000 cases and 25,000 deaths.
However, some people are concerned about the safety and efficacy of any vaccine - and, in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, whether or not they are halal or allowed under Islam.
In a bid to boost the public profile of the vaccines, the Indonesian government has decided to include influencers alongside almost 1.5 million healthcare workers in the first round of inoculations.
As the country kicked off its vaccination drive on Wednesday, President Joko Widodo was joined by Indonesian TV personality Raffi Ahmad, who boasts almost 50 million followers on Instagram.
Ahmad, 33, received the jab at the Presidential Palace, sharing various photos on Instagram.
Posting a selfie, Ahmad wrote: "Let's have a vaccine. Don't be afraid. May we always be healthy."
In another he could be seen posing with Widodo, saying: "Come on don't be afraid of the vaccine guys! May we always be healthy."
Ahmad later came under fire when images surfaced showing him socialising with friends after receiving the vaccine.
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Unmasked, he was also flouting social distancing regulations, despite the fact that vaccination does not confer immediate immunity.
Irma Hidayana, co-founder of pandemic data initiative LaporCOVID-19, said: "It also shows the government is inconsistent in prioritising who gets the vaccine first.
"They should've done it with another health worker, maybe, not an influencer."
The health ministry did not say how many influencers would be included in the first round of vaccines, but others due to receive a jab on Thursday include musician Ariel, of the band Noah, and Risa Saraswati.
Ahyani Raksanagara, head of Bandung's health agency, told Reuters the celebrities would 'hopefully convey positive influence and messages' about the vaccines, especially among young people.
A poll last month showed that just 37 percent of Indonesians were happy to be vaccinated, while 40 percent would consider and 17 percent would flat-out refuse.
Some doctors had raised doubts over the use of the CoronaVac vaccine from Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, with studies from Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey showing efficacies ranging from 50-91 percent.
However, in a potential boost to its reputation, the country's top Islamic council has now deemed it the vaccine to be halal.
Featured Image Credit: Instagram/@raffinagita1717
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