Konradus Epa, Jakarta – President Joko Widodo has met the leaders of Indonesia's six main religions to iron out ways to improve Covid-19 vaccination efforts that critics say are progressing at a snail's pace
The meeting took place at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Aug. 30 and involved Buddhist, Catholic, Confucian, Hindu, Muslim and Protestant leaders, including Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, president of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference.
During the meeting, Widodo acknowledged that vaccine supply and a shortage of people to vaccinate people were slowing the government's efforts to inoculate the population amid infection rates that are still very high.
Only about 97.5 million of Indonesia's 260 million people have been vaccinated since inoculation efforts began in January.
Widodo said Indonesia will receive 70 million doses from overseas in September so needed cooperation from religious leaders to ensure people in the regions can be vaccinated.
He called on the religious leaders to ensure their faithful cooperate with government agencies more in distributing doses and to provide volunteers from within their ranks to help administer them.
We will send mobile teams to help such people who don't have an identity card
He also asked the leaders to help allay people's fears about being vaccinated following reports of various side-effects such as blood clotting.
Cardinal Suharyo said the Church would help vaccinate people who may slip through the net because they have no official documentation, such as the homeless.
"We will send mobile teams to help such people who don't have an identity card," he said.
To accelerate vaccination efforts, he said, dioceses and parishes will help vaccinate people if vaccines are provided.
Abdul Mukti, general secretary of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, said his group would help in the training of volunteers to administer vaccines.
Meanwhile, Reverend Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said more attention needs to be paid to getting vaccines to people in remote areas and in eastern Indonesia.
"I ask the president to look at Papua very carefully because many people will reject vaccination if it's coming from military and police personnel," he said.
As a result, he suggested church volunteers take on more of the burden in the region.
As of Aug. 30, Indonesia had recorded a total of 4,079,267 Covid-19 cases and 132,491 deaths since the pandemic began.