Along the elderly to first receive the Covid-19 vaccines in Indonesia, now stands also a group of social media influencers. The vaccination drive kicked off in the country on the 13th of January 2021, with President Joko Widodo alongside Raffi Ahmed, a famous personality who has over 45m followers on Instagram.
The 33 year old celebrity posted a video of him receiving the vaccine shot, and he wrote, “Alhamdulillah a vaccine… Don’t be afraid of vaccines,” with a heart emoji and Indonesia’s red and white flag.
Who should be first to take the limited vaccine doses has been a challenge for everyone around the world, with most countries prioritizing healthcare workers and the elderly.
With more than 869,000 cases and 25,000 deaths, Indonesia has faced the most severe outbreak of the virus in Southeast Asia. People in the country are still skeptical about the vaccine, while another concern is whether the vaccination is halal or if it is allowed in Islam, as Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.
The health ministry did not release the number of how many influencers would be receiving the vaccine but authorities took into account the most famous ones including popular musicians such as Ariel, of the band Noah, and Risa Saraswati.
Indonesia coronavirus: The vaccination drive targeting younger people https://t.co/CcOLUDGPRk— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) January 13, 2021
The reason behind this was to “hopefully convey positive influence and messages” about the vaccines and especially to young people. A poll conducted over a month before showed only 37% of Indonesians were willing to be vaccinated while 40% would consider it, and 17% refused.
Doctors were concerned about the initial use of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac vaccine from a Chinese company but the studies from Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey show positive results ranging from 50-91%.
The decision to include social media influencers on the priority list somehow backfired when photos of Raffi were posted of him partying hours after he was given the shot, which does not work as immediate immunity.
Pictures of him unmasked and not respecting social distancing protocols with a group of friends brought criticism on social media, with calls for him to set a better example.
“They should’ve done it with another health worker, maybe, not an influencer.”Irma Hidayana, Cofounder of LaporCOVID-19
Zubairi Djoerban, a part of the Indonesian Medical Association said the strategy to hire influencers could only work if “influencers are briefed about vaccines and COVID-19 so they can be agents of change”. The police are investigating whether Raffi broke the law. In the meantime he has offered to apologize publicly.