Social media influencers are among the first in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Indonesia.
The decision, which clumps the group with 1.5 million health workers, was a deliberate government communications strategy, senior health official Siti Nadia Tarmizi told Reuters
On Wednesday, social influencer Raffi Ahmad
sat alongside President Joko Widodo to receive his shot of CoronaVac, created by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech. The vaccine was deemed halal by Indonesia’s top Islamic council.
“Thank God I was among the first to be vaccinated today, with Jokowi [a nickname for Widodo]. Thank you for your trust. To my beloved Indonesia, let’s get vaccinated. No need to be afraid,”
in an Instagram post.
It’s unclear how many influencers are scheduled to receive the vaccine first. Regardless, not everyone is thrilled about the idea.
“Just because Raffi Ahmad has been vaccinated it doesn’t mean that all Indonesians will follow his step, maybe only his followers will want to get vaccinated,”
Laura Navika Yamani, an epidemiologist, told the South China Morning Post
. “There should be monitoring and further analysis on how influential celebrities are in getting people inoculated, so in the future we can decide on whether to involve influencers, and not just public figures, in programs like this.”
Ahmad has nearly 50 million followers on Instagram and 19 million subscribers on YouTube. He is seen as “a representative of the millennials who can hopefully inspire more Indonesians to be confident and get vaccinated,” said Reisa Brotoasmoro, spokesperson of Indonesia’s COVID-19 task force.
It did not take long before Ahmad sparked controversy. Hours after getting his inoculation, the 33-year-old was seen partying without a mask and violating social distancing protocols.
“Getting the vaccine first does not mean you can already wander around,”
composer Sinna Sherina Munaf commented
. “You are selected for the initial ration of vaccines because you have many followers. That being said, please consistently set a good example.”
Ahmad posted an apology video yesterday, admitting that he had been “negligent.”
“I apologize profusely to the President of the Republic of Indonesia, the Presidential Secretariat, KPCPEN, and to all the Indonesian people for this incident,”
. “In the future, I will better adhere to the 3M health protocol (wearing a mask, keeping my distance, washing my hands). I also hope my friends and all Indonesian people continue to carry out health protocols, even with vaccinations ongoing.
The Sinovac vaccine does not immediately confer immunity. A study from Brazil also shows that it is only 50.4% effective, according to BBC News