President John Magufuli of Tanzania – no stranger to controversy where the COVID pandemic has been concerned – has made new and alarming statements about the coronavirus during a public appearance.
Magufuli questioned the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, according to local media accounts of his remarks, and put his distrust into a racial context linked to colonialism and longstanding African sentiments of interference in African affairs.
The 61-year-old president went as far as suggesting that Tanzanians who received the vaccine in other countries brought coronavirus back to the country. He also warned health officials to be guarded about accepting vaccines made in other parts of the world.
Vaccinations are dangerous, Magufuli said, insisting that if the “white man” was able to develop vaccines that succeed in defeating the COVID infection, the world would have known it by now because there would be vaccines for tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Magufuli has faced much criticism over his response to the pandemic, including sharp remarks from the World Health Organization as the global COVID crisis escalated in spring last year. Tanzania was slow to recognize the severity of the pandemic and lacked transparency about the spread of COVID.
The latest remarks continue the trend with mistrust in vaccines, a critical issue for WHO and global populations living in many countries that hesitate to trust vaccines and other health and humanitarian measures.
WHO officials again responded in support of vaccines and urged Tanzania to “ramp up public health measures.”
“Science shows that vaccines work and I encourage the government to prepare for a COVID vaccination campaign,” said WHO regional director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
Image: Presidency of Tanzania file