Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has warned health officials against acquiring Covid-19 vaccines saying – without giving evidence – that they could harm the population.
“The ministry of health should be careful, they should not hurry to try these vaccines without doing research, not every vaccine is important to us, we should be careful. We should not be used as ‘guinea pigs’,” Mr Magufuli said.
“Vaccinations are dangerous. If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for Aids, cancer and TB by now.”
BBC health reporter Philippa Roxby says vaccines are rigorously tested in trials involving thousands of people before being assessed by regulators, who look at all the data on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines before approving them for use on a wider population.
The aim of vaccines is to save lives by protecting people from deadly diseases, she says.
President Magufuli, the only African leader to claim there’s no Covid-19 in his country, urged Tanzanians to continue taking precautions, saying prayers and traditional medicine, including steam inhalation, were the way to deal with coronavirus.
“Many countries have lockdown, but in Tanzania there are no plan of lockdown and we’ll never introduce lockdown because our God is alive and he will continue to protects us.”
The president, a devout Catholic who last year declared the country free of Covid-19, did not comment on the Catholic Church’s concern about the recent spike in deaths in its urban parishes.
“After successfully containing the spread of the virus last year, Tanzania was now facing a new wave of the virus spread,” the church said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our country is not an island. We have every reason to take precautions and pray to God so that we can be saved from this pandemic.”
Over the weekend, Bishop Yuda Thadei Ruwaichi of Dar es Salaam said: “Covid is not finished, Covid is still here. Let’s not be reckless, we need to protect ourselves, wash your hands with soap and water. We also have to go back to wearing masks.”
The president also failed to address reports from Denmark that two of its citizens – who had visited Tanzania – had tested positive for the new Covid-19 strain from South Africa.
He instead blamed citizens who travel out of the country for “importing a new weird corona”.