Government officials in Indonesia reprimanded local celebrity Raffi Ahmad on Thursday after he was photographed socializing at a private party on Wednesday hours after participating in the Indonesian government’s official coronavirus vaccination campaign.
Photos of Ahmad at a dinner attended by Indonesian celebrities and government officials on Wednesday night went viral online. The event’s attendees did not appear to wear masks or practice social distancing in the photos. Ahmad was singled out for criticism online despite having received his first dose of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate CoronaVac at an official Indonesian government health event hours before he was pictured at the party.
“Hello Raffi Ahmad, after getting vaccinated it doesn’t mean that you can go out with many people. You were chosen to get the first batch of the vaccine because you have a lot of followers. For the same reason, please consistently set good examples next. Please you can do better than this. Your followers are counting on you,” Indonesian singer Sherina Munaf wrote on Twitter.
The head of Indonesia’s presidential secretariat, Heru Budi Hartono, responded to the controversy on Thursday, saying the president’s office would “advise” Ahmad on the matter.
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesman for the Indonesian government’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, reminded Ahmad and others like him who receive a coronavirus vaccine to continue adhering to health protocols on Thursday.
“Yes, we should continue to run the program even though we have been vaccinated, because vaccines alone are not enough to protect us and currently vaccines need time to produce antibodies, okay? So keep on guarding ourselves by complying with the health program and running 3M,” he said, referring to the Indonesian government’s three-point coronavirus health protocol: washing hands with soap, using sanitary masks, and maintaining a physical distance.
Ahmad issued a video apology for the incident via Instagram on Thursday.
“Last night’s party didn’t take place at a public space, but at the house of my friend’s father. Before we entered the house, we had to go through several health protocols. But when I had a meal when I was inside, [I took off my mask and] then there were people who took photos of me,” he said, according to news outlet Coconuts Jakarta.
“I apologize as this incident became big. I remind you guys once again, to everyone, to myself, to obey the 3M protocol (washing hands with soap, using face masks, and maintaining physical distance). I don’t want to disappoint many parties, especially because I got to be the first to be vaccinated,” Ahmad said in the video.
The Indonesian government chose Ahmad and a limited number of other high-profile Indonesians to receive one of the first available doses of CoronaVac this week. Jakarta contracted the vaccine candidate from Sinovac Biotech, a Chinese biopharmaceutical company, for its national coronavirus vaccination campaign. Indonesian President Joko Widodo was the first person in Indonesia to receive a dose of CoronaVac on Tuesday in a staged procedure broadcast live on national television.
“On Monday, Indonesia gave the Sinovac vaccine its first emergency use approval outside China, as interim data from a late-stage clinical trial conducted in the country showed its efficacy rate at 65.3 percent,” Channel News Asia reported on January 12.
Other countries, such as Brazil, have also contracted with Sinovac to incorporate CoronaVac into their coronavirus vaccination campaigns. Sinovac’s Brazilian partners said on January 12 that their final stage clinical trials showed CoronaVac to be 50.38 percent effective against the Chinese coronavirus. This announcement followed a previous claim by the same researchers on January 7 that CoronaVac’s efficacy rate was 78 percent.