Lilongwe – Tanzania launched a national new coronavirus vaccination drive on July 28, months after the rest of the world started mass inoculations.
The vaccination drive took off with President Samia Saluhu Hassan taking a jab in front of the cameras in the financial capital of Dar es Salaam.
Under former President Dr John Magufuli, now late, Tanzania had resisted conventional approaches to combatting the pandemic and the government had even stopped publishing statistics on infections, recoveries and deaths. Further, for nearly a year the government did not impose initiate widespread virus control measures such as enforcement of mask-wearing and restrictions on movements, despite countries all over the world implementing these to good effect.
The consequence is that no one really knows the true scale of the pandemic.
The Health Ministry said last week that the number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 858 since the start of the third wave and 29 people had died, but did not give a timeframe.
Following Dr Magufuli’s death in March and the ascension of President Hassan, Tanzania has been taking a more conventional approach to COVID-19, culminating in the Head of State’s public vaccination this week.
“There are people who resist vaccination but there are a lot of people waiting for the vaccines,” President Hassan said. “I’m a mother of four children, grandmother to many, wife and most importantly, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Tanzanian armed forces. You can imagine how many people depend on me (in) that chain. In that context, I cannot put my life at risk if the vaccines are not safe.”
Tanzania has received over one million single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the Covax facility, and the government is giving priority to frontline workers, the elderly and those with underlying diseases in the first stage of its mass inoculation drive.
At the time of writing, Burundi and Eritrea were the only African countries yet to announce national vaccination programmes.