Instagram influencers a vaccine priority in cautious Indonesia By Reuters

2/2 © Reuters. Indonesian influencer Raffi Ahmad receives an injection of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta 2/2

By Stanley Widianto and Kate Lamb JAKARTA (Reuters) – One of the first in line for coronavirus vaccines in Indonesia has been a conspicuous group: social media influencers. Joining President Joko Widodo, as the world’s fourth most populous country, kicked off its vaccination campaign on Wednesday, was Indonesian television personality Raffi Ahmad, who has nearly 50 million followers on Instagram. “Alhamdulillah [Praise be to God] a vaccine … Don’t be afraid of vaccines, ”wrote the 33-year-old celebrity below a video of him receiving the injection, along with a heart emoji and another of the red and white Indonesian flag. Deciding who should be first in line to receive limited doses of vaccines has been a challenge around the world, with many countries prioritizing vulnerable physicians and the elderly. Senior Health Ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi said the decision to include influencers along with nearly 1.5 million health workers in the first round of vaccines was a deliberate communication strategy by the government. Although Indonesia faces the most severe coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia, with more than 869,000 cases and 25,000 deaths, there has been skepticism around the safety and efficacy of any vaccine, and in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, already be it halal or permitted under Islam. Indonesians are among the world’s leading users of social media platforms such as Facebook (NASDAQ :), Twitter, and Instagram. The Health Ministry did not say how many influencers would be first in line with vaccines, but others who will receive an injection on Thursday include musicians Ariel, from the band Noah, and Risa Saraswati. Ahyani Raksanagara, director of the Bandung health agency, told Reuters that the artists “hopefully convey positive messages and influences” about vaccines, and especially to young people. A survey last month showed that only 37% of Indonesians were willing to get vaccinated, while 40% would consider it and 17% refused. Some clinicians have raised questions about the initial Indonesian use of the CoronaVac vaccine from the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, with studies from Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey showing efficacies ranging from 50% to 91%. But in another possible boost to chances of acceptance, the country’s top Islamic council has deemed the vaccine halal. However, the decision to put social media influencers on the priority list fell through a bit when photos of Raffi showed him partying hours after receiving the injection, which does not confer immediate immunity. Images of him unmasked and disobeying social distancing protocols with a group of friends drew criticism on social media, with calls to set a better example. “It also shows that the government is inconsistent in prioritizing who gets the vaccine first,” said Irma Hidayana, co-founder of the LaporCOVID-19 pandemic data initiative, “They should have done it with another healthcare worker, perhaps, not with a person. influential”. Nadia, a ministry official, pointed out that “when you are vaccinated, you must follow health protocols and not be careless when enforcing them.” Zubairi Djoerban of the Indonesian Medical Association said the strategy to recruit influencers could only work if “influencers are informed about the vaccine and COVID-19 so they can be agents of change.” Police said they are investigating whether Raffi broke the law, while he offered a public apology. (Reporting and written by Kate Lamb in Sydney and Stanley Widianto and Agustinus Beo Da Costa in Jakarta; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Giles Elgood)