The Tanzanian government announced on Friday July 23 that it was equipping itself to soon start its vaccination campaign against the coronavirus, in a country which displayed its skepticism about Covid-19 a few months ago.

Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said in a statement Thursday evening that the government was also banning all "unnecessary gatherings."

This East African country had not published Covid-19 contamination figures since April 2020, and at that date gave 509 cases for 16 deaths.

Dorothy Gwajima said on Friday that 176 cases had been recorded for Thursday alone, for a total of 858 cases since the start of the third wave, of which she did not specify the date.

The late President John Magufuli, who officially died of heart problems in March, consistently downplayed the scale of the pandemic, saying prayer, rather than wearing a mask, would save Tanzanians from it.

Dorothy Gwajima, who under John Magufuli had notably promoted a vegetable-based smoothie to fight the virus, said vaccines would soon be available for free to volunteers - without giving a date, however.

"I call on all citizens to prepare for vaccination," she said.

The new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, took the opposite view of her predecessor, saying that "it is not good to ignore it" (the Covid-19).

It has created a committee of experts to advise the government on this matter. 

No vaccination campaign yet in Tanzania, Eritrea and Burundi 

"This third wave is already in the country and there is nothing to hide," Hassan said in July, calling on Tanzanians to respect sanitary measures such as wearing masks and washing their hands.

On Thursday, the African Union Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Africa CDC) said Tanzania, Eritrea and Burundi were the only countries on the continent not to have started a vaccination campaign against Covid -19.  

But Tanzania, with a population of 58 million, recently started to join the international Covax initiative, as well as an African Union (AU) vaccine procurement program. 

"It can now be said that we have seen a significant shift in Tanzania's position," said John Nkengasong, Africa CDC director.

It was not immediately possible to know which vaccines would be available in Tanzania. 

With AFP 

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