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23.7 Million Indonesian Children to Get Polio Immunization

FILE - An Indonesian boy is given polio vaccine in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nov. 30, 2005.

FILE - An Indonesian boy is given polio vaccine in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nov. 30, 2005.

After being declared polio-free by World Health Organization officials in 2014, Indonesia is observing National Polio Immunization Week by vowing to inoculate millions of children.

At a news conference in Jakarta, Indonesian Health Minister Nila Moeloek announced plans to vaccinate 23.7 million babies — from birth to 59 months of age — to keep the world on track toward being polio-free by 2020.

"In 2014, Indonesia, along with other ASEAN countries, was awarded polio-free certificates," he said, vowing that the vaccine would comprise only Indonesia-made ingredients. "But because Afghanistan and Pakistan are still categorized as polio-endemic countries, there is a need for worldwide commitment, including from Indonesia, to move toward a polio-free world."

While the polio immunization awareness events kicked off Tuesday throughout Indonesia, Puan Maharani, Coordinating Minister of Cultural and Human Development, said two provinces will receive vaccines a week later than the rest.

"Two provinces are postponing the National Polio Immunization Week, including Bali, because it coincides with Nyepi, a religious holiday," she said. "The provinces will launch their own [events] from March 13 to 22."

The launch of National Polio Immunization Week events in Solo, Central Java, was attended by First Lady Iriana Jokowi.

According to The Jakarta Post, Indonesia's Ulema Council issued an edict Jan. 23 reiterating its position that immunization is allowed in Islam to improve immunity and prevent sickness, so long as ingredients for the vaccine are derived of halal sources. Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Indonesian Service.