Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan yesterday trashed the misinformation being peddled against Covid-19 vaccines, urging Tanzanians to adhere to science in protecting human health and life.
Speaking shortly before she received an injection of the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine to officially launch the nationwide vaccination programme, President Hassan said she was the mother of four, a grandmother, a wife - and, above all: President. Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. As such, she said, there was no way she would put the lives of Tanzanians at risk.
The start of the roll-out of the vaccination comes four days after Tanzania received its 1,058,400 doses of the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday (July 24, 2021) at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam by Health minister Dorothy Gwajima and Foreign Affairs minister Liberata Mulamula from the US ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Donald Wright.
The programme also comes on the backdrop of negative sentiments touted by some influential individuals, and emanating from Tanzania’s prior stand on Covid-19 vaccines.
By taking the jab, President Hassan took a completely different approach from that of her predecessor, the late President John Magufuli, who had openly cast doubts on the safety of masks and vaccines.
In line with the past thinking, cleric-cum-politician Josephat Gwajima castigated the Covid-19 vaccines in a statement that was widely condemned by people across the board.
Preaching to worshipers in his Dar es Salaam-based Glory of Christ Tanzania Church on Sunday, Mr Gwajima made baseless claims that some developed countries behind the vaccinations have ulterior motives in the matter.
He told his unwary followers that he was dedicating this whole week to preaching on the dangers of the Covid-19 vaccinations.
Yesterday, President Hassan reiterated that the vaccines would be administered on one’s own volition, noting however that the country would import more vaccines through a special arrangement under the African Union (AU).
“We have already placed an order with the AU through our own funding, that we have specially set aside,” she said.
Those vaccinated yesterday at State House included President Hassan, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, Chief Justice Prof Ibrahim Juma, Chief Secretary Hussein Kattanda, Foreign Affairs minister Mulamula and Health minister Dorothy Gwajima.
“I’m grateful that through the US government we were able to receive the vaccinations while at the same I am also happy with the committee in charge of the pandemic that is working day and night to ensure everything goes well,” she said.
The Head of State hailed those that had joined her to launch the vaccination, because they would show Tanzanians that the jabs were safe.
Explaining this, she said after Tanzania joined the vaccination programme there have been different views about the decision: those against it, and those who are for it.
“We will continue to educate the people so they would make informed decisions, but at the moment the challenge is that the number of vaccinations that we have is small compared to needs,” she said.
She noted that the decision to be vaccinated was voluntary and is also based on one’s faith citing six vaccines she received in her childhood that made her healthy and alive today.
But, she urged Tanzanians to continue taking precautions against Covid-19, the vaccination notwithstanding.
“The pandemic is real, and only families that have been affected know the impact. These families are in Moshi, Arusha, Dar es Salaam and other parts of the country. Those not yet touched by the pandemic in one way or another may not understand,” she said.
There are foreign nationals in Tanzania, including Chinese, who had requested vaccine importation to enable them travel to their home countries without having to be quarantined.
Health minister Dorothy Gwajima said following delivery of the vaccines, the Ministry has put in place a plan for the vaccinations including identifying health centres where people can be vaccinated across the country.
“We have also started creating awareness to enable the general public to be vaccinated against the viral global pandemic, and reach herd immunity as well as understand that the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine is safe, with more than eight million people having been vaccinated in the US alone,” she said.
She also said that there have been false reports that the Janssen vaccination made by Johnson and Johnson had been rejected. But, the reality is that there had been a few mishaps which were cleared on April 28 this year, well before the consignment was dispatched to Tanzania.
She assured Tanzanians not to be wary of directives that require all those who have opted to be vaccinated to sign a consent form that makes them responsible for any eventuality - saying that this is a normal health-care procedure the world over.
“This is an historic event at which President Hassan has launched vaccinations against Covid-19,” she concluded.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said that the special Covid-19 Committee is closely following up on all issues relating to the pandemic, including receiving advice from experts.
He said Tanzania, like the rest of the world, was also taking action against the pandemic, including preparing to start vaccinating its people.
“The Covid-19 Committee will meet on July 30 to discuss a number of issues, including how the public has received the vaccines generally - and what more needs to be done,” he said.