DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania
Tanzania’s president took a shot publicly on Wednesday to finally launch a rollout in a country among the world’s last to accept COVID-19 vaccines.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan, along with Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and other top officials, was administered the Johnson & Johnson jab live on television as Tanzania kicked off a campaign that aims to eventually vaccinate at least 60% of its population of around 58 million.
The East African nation has drastically changed its stance on the pandemic since Hassan took office in March after the death of former President John Magufuli, an ardent coronavirus skeptic who touted prayer as the best cure and shunned masks and vaccines.
Hassan, in her address at the ceremony, emphasized the safety of the COVID-19 jabs and urged Tanzanians to get vaccinated.
“I am a mother, a grandmother with several grandchildren, a wife, and on top of that, I am the president and commander-in-chief of our armed forces. I wouldn’t risk my life and all my responsibilities if I knew that this injection may be harmful,” she said.
Tanzania received a shipment of just over 1 million doses from the US this past weekend under the global vaccine-sharing COVAX initiative.
Hassan said the government has placed an order through the African Union to import more doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from South Africa.
Dorothy Gwajima, the country’s health minister, stressed that the imported vaccines have been declared safe by Tanzanian experts.
She said vaccinations will start in 10 regions during the first phase and gradually expand throughout the country.
Frontline health workers, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions will be prioritized for vaccination, according to the minister.
Starting May 2020, Tanzania refused to share figures on coronavirus infections in the country for over a year but finally released new data earlier this month.
According to the Africa CDC, the virus tally in the country was 858 as of Wednesday, including 651 active cases.
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