Big turnout as Indonesia holds mass vaccination drive for clergy

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Thousands of Indonesia’s religious figures gathered on Thursday for mass COVID-19 inoculations for clergy and faith groups, with monks, priests, imams and nuns queuing to receive their first doses of vaccine.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

Monks in orange, brown and maroon robes sat on chairs evenly spaced across the basement car park of Jakarta’s Grand Istiqlal Mosque waiting to register for Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac.

Thursday’s was the biggest turnout yet, forcing health workers to turn away some people.

Vajra Sastra, a 22-year-old monk, said he hoped more could receive the vaccine sooner so his temple could reopen again for mass prayers.

“I don’t have any doubt about being vaccinated because for me, and some of our community members, we’re sure that Indonesia’s government chose the right vaccine.”

The world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation has a state ideology that enshrines religious diversity in a secular system of government.

Authorities aim to immunise more than a 1,200 members of religious groups each day over a week.

Catholic nun Regitia Hati Kudus said she could resume her church duties while still following health protocols.

“I’m totally okay with the vaccine and ready to go back to serve,” the 36-year-old added.

Indonesia was one of southeast Asia’s first nations to start a campaign of mass vaccinations to tackle one of the region’s most stubborn epidemics.

Its tally of infections exceeds 1.3 million, with a death toll of 35,000.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: here)

Reporting by Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana; Writing by Martin Petty