Indonesian politicians criticised for taking Covid-19 boosters when most in country unvaccinated

Indonesia's military chief Hadi Tjahjanto (left) and East Kalimantan governor Isran Noor said during a meeting with President Joko Widodo they have received a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine. PHOTO: REUTERS, ST FILE

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Political elites in Indonesia are admitting to getting a third dose of Covid-19 vaccines, defying calls from the health ministry as most of the country have not received even their first shot.

Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto and East Kalimantan governor Isran Noor said during a meeting with President Joko Widodo that they have received their third jabs, at a time when booster shots are given only to healthcare workers.

In the live-streamed video of them casually chatting before a public event on Tuesday (Aug 24), the President said he has not received a third dose and that he is waiting for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

That clip was later taken down from the official channel.

Air Chief Marshal Hadi denied that he has received a third dose in response to questions from Bloomberg, then later explained that he has received a stem cell treatment as a "booster" to his vaccine shots.

Governor Isran did not respond to requests for comment, while a representative for the presidential palace declined to comment.

"Many people haven't even received a single shot, yet we see public officials queuing up for a third dose, this is really unfair," said Dr Burhanuddin Muhtadi, an executive director at survey institute Indikator Politik.

Only 22 per cent of Indonesia's 270 million population have received their first Covid-19 shots as at Wednesday and just 12 per cent are fully inoculated, according to Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

The health ministry has repeatedly said that booster shots are meant only for healthcare workers as it intensifies the vaccination campaign to curb deaths, which still number in the thousands each day.

In earlier occasions, other public officials spoke openly about the extra dose, including the deputy head of the North Toraja regency, who received the Moderna vaccine as a booster, according to a report by Kompas newspaper.

"Let me reiterate that booster shots are only for healthcare workers," Dr Siti Nadia Tarmizi, spokesman for the Covid-19 task force, told Bloomberg when contacted on Wednesday. "This is the responsibility of the central government, as well as regional governments, and we have hired auditors to verify the administration of these vaccines."

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