One group stands out among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine in Indonesia: social media influencers. The world’s fourth most populous country, with 267.7 million people, kicked off the vaccination campaign on Wednesday (13) with TV personality Raffi Ahmad – 49.4 million Instagram followers – alongside the President Joko Widodo.
“Thank goodness a vaccine […] Don’t be afraid of the vaccinations, ”the 33-year-old celebrity wrote in a video she receives the injection. The post also had a heart emoji and an Indonesian flag emoji.
Deciding who should be the first to receive limited doses of vaccines has been a challenge around the world, with many countries prioritizing doctors and the elderly. In Indonesia, the decision to include influencers alongside nearly 1.5 million health workers in the first round of immunization was a communications strategy, said Siti Nadia Tarmizi, an official at the Ministry of Health.
Although Indonesia faces the most serious coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia – with more than 869,000 cases and 25,000 deaths – there is skepticism about the safety and effectiveness of any vaccine. . And, in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, doubts vaccines are halal – no trace of items banned by Muslims, such as alcohol, pork and meat products.
The Department of Health did not specify how many digital celebrities will receive the first doses, but on the list of those who will be vaccinated this Thursday (14) are musicians Ariel, of the group Noah – 3.1 million followers on Instagram -, and Risa Saraswati – 1.8 million followers on the platform – because, according to Ahyani Raksanagara, head of the Bandung health agency, artists “influence and transmit positive messages” about vaccines, especially for young people .
The decision to include influencers on the priority list, however, backfired when photos of Raffi showed him at a party hours after receiving the injection – the vaccine does not confer d immediate immunity.
Images of him without a mask and disregarding social distancing protocols with a group of friends drew criticism on social media, with calls for him to set a better example. “It also shows that the government is inconsistent in prioritizing who gets the vaccine first,” says Irma Hidayana, co-founder of the LaporCOVID-19 initiative, which collects data on the pandemic. “They should have done it with another healthcare professional, maybe not an influencer.”
A survey last month showed that only 37% of Indonesians were ready to be vaccinated, while 40% would consider the possibility and 17% would refuse. Doctors have cast doubts on the initial use of the CoronaVac vaccine, by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, in Indonesia – with studies in Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey showing efficacy ranging from 50 to 91 percent. In another possible increase in the chances of acceptance, the country’s Islamic council considered the halal vaccine.
Zubairi Djoerban, from the Indonesian Medical Association, said the influencer recruitment strategy could only work if “they were made aware of the vaccine and Covid-19 and acted as agents of change.” Police said they were investigating whether Raffi, who issued a public apology, had broken the law.