The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti has urged Tanzanians to ramp up public health measures against COVID-19, reassuring them that vaccines work.
This comes a day after the country’s President John Magufuli said that Tanzania would not rush to embrace COVID-19 vaccines, alleging “hidden motives from rich nations.”
“Stand firm. Vaccines aren’t a good thing,” claimed the president while addressing a gathering at his home village, Chato on Wednesday.
In the latest development, the WHO-Africa chief, Dr Moeti tweeted on Thursday, January 28, stressing that the vaccines work.
“Science shows that [#VaccinesWork] and I encourage the government to prepare for a COVID vaccination campaign,’’ she wrote.
Over the years, Tanzania has been credited to having achieved 80 to 90 % rates in standard vaccination.
Currently, the global drive for vaccines is meant to protect the world from the surging cases of COVID-19.
Data from the WHO showed over a week ago that daily case numbers of COVID-19 in Africa have exceeded those recorded in the first wave peak owing to the new variants.
Experts around the world, including in Africa have warned against public messages that are likely to cause vaccine hesitancy.
As countries battle the coronavirus, Tanzania has not updated its official data on COVID-19 since May 2020 when President Magufuli declared the country “COVID-19 free.”
The Executive Director of Twaweza East Africa Aidan Eyakuze has since warned in his opinion piece that Tanzania’s status as a Covid-sceptic may have serious economic consequences beyond the pandemic itself.
“If Covid-19 is treated as a national irrelevance here there would seem to be no urgent reason for Tanzania’s authorities to rush to obtain the vaccine to inoculate citizens, or to mitigate any negative economic consequences,’’ he wrote.
What’s the current status in Tanzania?
On Wednesday, President Magufuli said he was aware of some Tanzanians who went out of the country to be vaccinated and returned to Tanzania with “a strange form of coronavirus.”
The President did not state whether Tanzania has confirmed cases of COVID-19 related to the new variants but he insisted that he would never impose lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Religious leaders under the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) have since issued a statement reminding their followers to take precautions against “a possible new wave of coronavirus infections.”
However, the Deputy Minister of Health Dr Godwin Mollel told local media that matters to do with COVID-19 should be left to scientists, repeating the President’s stance that Tanzania is “COVID-19 free.”
“Should there be any problem, the government will explain. People should continue with their normal routines,” said Dr Mollel.