On Feb 2, 2021, Tanzania’s health minister, Dorothy Gwajima, announced that her country has no plans in place to recommend the widespread use of COVID-19 vaccines in the African country.
The announcement came a few days after Tanzania’s President John Magufuli expressed concern about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines developed and manufactured in Western countries.
President Magufuli said that the health ministry will only accept COVID-19 vaccines after Tanzania’s experts have examined and certified them. Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima explained,
“We are not yet satisfied that those vaccines have been clinically proven safe.”
President Magufuli reiterated that he will not allow Tanzanians to be used as guinea pigs in COVID-19 vaccine trials conducted by vaccine manufacturers. He warned that COVID-19 vaccines could be harmful and has been urging Tanzanians to stop living in fear and adopt common-sense disease control measures and lead a healthy lifestyle. Health Minister Gwajima said:
We must improve our personal hygiene, wash hands with running water and soap, use handkerchiefs, herbal steam, exercise, eat nutritious food, drink plenty of water, and [use] natural remedies that our nation is endowed with.
The WHO and other institutions have been watching Tanzania closely since COVID-19 began to spread across Africa.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tanzanian government has objected to adopting strict lockdown protocols or restricting the movement of its citizens as the primary way to contain the spread of the virus, an approach adopted in the U.S., Europe, and other countries.
Although Tanzania’s more open and less restrictive approach has appeared to be radical and unconventional to many, the reasons included avoiding the negative economic fallout caused by lockdowns and the belief that the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was over-rated.