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Tanzania to Join COVAX Vaccines Sharing Facility

FILE - Workers prepare face shields from recycled plastics at the Zaidi Recyclers workshop as a measure to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 21, 2020.

Tanzania has asked to join the COVAX global vaccine sharing facility and start its first coronavirus immunization campaign - more than 15 months after the start of the pandemic. The new policy is a major departure from the policies of late president John Magufuli, who denied coronavirus existed in Tanzania and dismissed the vaccines as dangerous.

In a news conference Thursday, the World Health Organization’s regional director in Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said Tanzania is now formally working to join the COVAX facility.

Speaking with the BBC, Tanzanian government spokesperson Gerson Msigwa neither denied nor confirmed the information but added the government will release an official statement on vaccines at the appropriate time.

Rights activists Tito Magoti said this is a good first step towards fighting the pandemic.

He says, it is a move that some of us Tanzanians we were demanding. We are now getting a chance to have peace of mind, because we have been given choices that we were not able to get due to the denial of the government on the issue he says. Tito added it is high time now for the government to intensify the issue of coronavirus because there has not been transparency on the issue of updates and measures.

It is difficult to gauge the clear extent of coronavirus in Tanzania as the country stopped reporting data in April 2020, after it had recorded 509 COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths.

But overcoming the late president’s claims that the virus did not exist in Tanzania, and that vaccines were ineffective, is still a challenge.

Some citizens like Ummy Matinde are worried about the efficacy of the vaccines.

She says during the leadership of the late John Magufuli, he didn’t allow the vaccines because he said they had negative outcomes into the human body. Under the leadership of Samia Hassan, she says, they are allowing it but they didn’t give out proof that show whether the vaccines are good or not.

While Tanzania awaits the vaccines, Minister of Health Doroth Gwajima has insisted people take all necessary precautions against COVID-19 including wearing face masks.

You find people in a crowd and they don’t wear face masks, she says. I didn’t tell you to wear face masks when you are going on your farm or when you are in an area with good circulating air. She says there are areas that have limited air and a crowd, and there, people must wear facemasks.

Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba says the government has entered talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $571 million loan to address the economic and social impact of Covid 19.

He says, President Samia met Kristalina Georgieva, executive director of the International Monetary Fund, with a view to strengthening relations on economic and social issues including the issue of strategies to address the impact of COVID-19 he says.

But according to the IMF, for the loan to be approved, Tanzania needs to publish updated statistics on prevlance of COVID-19.