|Indonesian influencer Raffi Ahmad receives a shot of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Screengrab from January 13, 2021 handout video from Indonesian Presidential Palace via REUTERS)|
[Asia News Communication = Reporter Reakkana] Alongside President Joko Widodo as the world's fourth most populous country kicked off its vaccination drive on Wednesday (Jan 13) was Indonesian television personality Raffi Ahmad, who boasts almost 50 million followers on Instagram.
A senior health ministry official, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, said the decision to include influencers alongside almost 1.5 million healthcare workers in the first round of inoculations was a deliberate government communications strategy. “Alhamdulillah 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. Ahyani Raksanagara, head of Bandung’s health agency, told Reuters the artists would “hopefully convey positive influence and messages” about the vaccines, and especially to young people.
Although Indonesia faces have more than 869,000 cases and 25,000 deaths - there’s been skepticism around the safety and efficacy of any vaccine, and in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, whether it is halal, or allowed under Islam. Indonesians are among the top global users of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The health ministry didn’t say how many influencers would be first in the vaccine line, but others due to receive a shot on Thursday included musicians Ariel, of the band Noah, and Risa Saraswati.