Indonesia's Net celebs help push virus shots

Among the first in line for COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia has been one conspicuous group: social media influencers.
Indonesias Net celebs help push virus shots

Indonesian influencer Raffi Ahmad receives a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Among the first in line for COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia has been one conspicuous group: social media influencers.

Alongside President Joko Widodo as the world’s fourth most populous country kicked off its vaccination drive on Wednesday was Indonesian television personality, Raffi Ahmad, who boasts almost 50 million followers on Instagram.

“Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God) a vaccine ... Don’t be afraid of vaccines,” the 33-year-old celebrity wrote under a video of him receiving the shot, next to a heart emoji and another of Indonesia’s red-and-white flag.

Who should be first for limited vaccine doses has been a challenge, with many countries prioritizing vulnerable medics and the elderly.

Senior health ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi said the decision to include influencers alongside almost 1.5 million health-care workers in the first round of inoculations was a deliberate communications strategy.

‘A positive influence’

Although Indonesia faces the most severe coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia, there has been scepticism around the safety and efficacy of any vaccine.

The health ministry did not say how many influencers would be first in the line, but others due to receive a shot yesterday include musicians Ariel, of the band Noah, and Risa Saraswati.

Ahyani Raksanagara, head of Bandung’s health agency, said the artists would “hopefully convey positive influence and messages,” especially to young people.

But the decision to include social media influencers on the priority list backfired when photos of Raffi showed him partying hours after his injection, which does not give immediate immunity. The images of him unmasked and flouting social distancing with a group of friends drew criticism on social media.

“It also shows the government is inconsistent in prioritizing who gets the vaccine first,” said Irma Hidayana, cofounder of pandemic data initiative LaporCOVID-19.

 “They should have done it with another health worker, maybe, not an influencer.”

Zubairi Djoerban of the Indonesian Medical Association said the strategy to hire influencers could only work if they “are briefed about vaccine and COVID-19 so they can be agents of change.”

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