Indonesian officials and media tackle vaccine hesitancy and misinformation – Triwardani – – Asian Politics & Policy


Everyone is on deck to fight misinformation and vaccine reluctance in Indonesia, more than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. To boost confidence in vaccines, President Joko Widodo received his first vaccine at the start of the national vaccination campaign on January 13, 2021. He received an injection of Coronavac, a vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech which had already been approved for emergency use by the Indonesian food industry. and the drug control agency. However, more than health reasons, Widodo’s vaccination was aimed at convincing Indonesia of the safety and the need to be vaccinated in the face of the increase in COVID-19 cases which now stands at 1.8. million in the first week of June 2021 (Jakarta Post, 2021). Public and private media have supported the Indonesian government’s information campaign to counter disinformation and vaccine reluctance circulating on social media. WhatsApp’s social media platform is the site of vaccine hoaxes and misinformation regarding the makeup of COVID-19 vaccines, their side effects, and the influential IDI (Indonesia Doctors Association) alleged refusal to approve the vaccination. There is no truth that the IDI campaigned against vaccination.

The government has launched a website (https://covid19.go.id/) led by the Working Group for the Acceleration of COVID-19 Management on March 18, 2020, serving as a single information center on coronavirus control (Arifin, 2020). The website brought together the Covid-19 team and the National Economic Recovery Committee (KPCPEN), the Covid-19 working group, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Communication and Information to provide updates update to the public, in particular on the management of Covid. -19, the economic recovery and the national vaccination program against Covid-19. It is also available on other social media platforms such as YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/c/LawanCovid19ID) which contains audiovisual content in campaigns, webinar series, public service advertisements and an Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/lawancovid19_id/). Among the unique features of the website are the Hoax Buster and Cek Hoax buttons. Hoax Buster is linked with a series of fact checks, while Cek Hoax is a chatbot that checks and debunks hoaxes on WhatsApp.

The deployment of the vaccine in Indonesia has been marred by the reluctance or refusal of some communities or groups to be vaccinated. As of May 22, 2021, the number of people who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was 14,815,666. Those who received their second dose are 9,825,499 (Anon, 2021). The total number of vaccinated is still far from the national vaccination target of 181.5 million people to achieve collective immunity.

Providing vaccines to the public is part of a government program to control the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a legal basis for the purchase of vaccines, including the vaccination program, with Presidential Decree No.99 of 2020 or the Law on the Purchase of Vaccines and the Implementation of Vaccines in the Context of the Pandemic COVID-19 (Hikmawati, 2021). The decree is derived from the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (UUD 1945), in particular Article 28H paragraph 1 which states that “Everyone has the right to live physically and mentally, to have a place to live, to have a good and healthy living environment and the right to obtain health services.. “

The mass vaccinations planned by the government will take place within 15 months, from January 2021 to March 2022. In this case, the government fulfills its obligation to ensure the realization of the right to health for all Indonesians.

Amid a significant increase in positive COVID-19 cases, which reached 1,769,940 cases on May 22, 2021 (Tim Komunikasi Komite Penanganan Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) dan Pemulihan Ekonomi Nasional, 2021), vaccination was Indonesia’s means to prevent the numbers from increasing. Unfortunately, the vaccination effort is hampered by the doubts and rejections of some people.

To find out people’s perceptions of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Ministry of Health and the Indonesian Immunization Technical Advisory Group (ITAGI), with support from UNICEF and WHO, conducted a national survey on acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine. The survey, which took place from September 19 to 30, 2020, collected responses from more than 115,000 people from 34 provinces covering 508 districts / cities. The results of the survey showed that about 74% of those polled said they knew a little about the government’s plan to carry out the COVID-19 vaccination nationwide. About 65% of those polled said they were ready to receive the government-provided COVID-19 vaccine, while 8% refused. The remaining 27% expressed doubts about the government’s plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the level of acceptance varies by province, depending on the economic situation, religious beliefs, level of education and region. The group that declined the vaccine said the vaccine’s safety, efficacy and halal factors were their considerations (Kementerian et al., 2020).

Although the community relatively accepts the COVID-19 vaccine nationally, there are still provinces such as West Sumatra with a relatively high vaccine rejection rate (Sakti, 2021). Politically, there are indications that resistance to vaccination was expressed more by those who, from the start, chose different attitudes and political choices in the Jokowi administration (Indikator, 2021). It is also known that some vaccine releases are influenced by beliefs that vaccines are haram, part of a conspiracy. (Dzulfaroh, 2021).

The push for immunization came from Widodo himself, who states that since vaccines could be given free of charge, all government agencies and departments should prioritize the immunization program in their 2021 budget. The president’s instruction launched discussion and opinions on social media; but some comments cast doubts on the safety of vaccines. Twitter, for example, contains tweets about red and white vaccines, halal vaccine certification, vaccine efficacy, and vaccine pricing, among other topics (Rachman & Pramana, 2020). In general, discussions on social media tended to promote vaccination programs, as evidenced by the popularity of hashtags supporting the vaccination program, such as #vaksinasidimulai, #vaksinhalal (Kurniawan & Sutan, 2021).

Meanwhile, government media such as the official website of the COVID-19 task force, https://covid19.go.id/vaksin-covid19 and the presidential site https://www.presidenri.go.id/?s=vaksinasi%26kanal=berita%26tanggal= reported on the president’s efforts and also allowed him to speak directly to the public about the national immunization program (Figures 1 and 2).

The first dose of vaccination for President Joko Widodo. Source: https://www.presidenri.go.id/foto/presiden-ri-menerima-vaksin-covid-19-perdana/
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President Widodo’s exemplary role as the first recipient of this vaccine demonstrates his government support for vaccine science as a key to controlling a pandemic. It is also a way of persuading those who have doubts to get vaccinated.

Indonesian media generally support the government’s COVID-19 program. However, two very popular news sites in Indonesia, namely Detik and Kompas, seem to have prioritized negative information, although their presentations are different. Detik tended to present information about the COVID-19 pandemic with negative information, while Kompas presents the most news that can cause anxiety among other topical Covid-19 topics (Setiawan et al., 2020). Some hoaxes about the COVID-19 vaccine have also been included in the reports, including on the composition of the COVID-19 vaccine, post-vaccination side effects and the IDI’s refusal to join the vaccination program (Rahayu & Sensusiyati, 2021).

Due to rampant new COVID-19 hoaxes, the https://covid19.go.id/site also provides features that help the public to avoid misinformation https://covid19.go.id/p/hoax-buster. Even access to hoax checking is available through the WhatsApp app (see Figure 3).

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The display of the anti-hoax function.

Source: https://covid19.go.id/p/hoax-buster?search=vaksinasi

The information campaign to deal with vaccine hesitancy and distortion will continue as the speed and scale of the number of hoaxes is still unstoppable. President Widodo has said that controlling the pandemic, mainly through vaccination, is a game-changer (Setpres, 2021). However, improving public communication is crucial to address the resistance of community groups to the national immunization campaign.



Lyle L. Maltby

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