NAIROBI, 23 February 2021 – Burundi and Tanzania are the only members of the six-nation East African Community (EAC) bloc who still have no plans to inoculate against COVID-19.
The four other EAC members – Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda have already started vaccinations.
Not so, Burundi and Tanzania. Tanzania claims to have prayed COVID-19 away, while Burundi says it has no need for COVID-19 vaccines.
Instead, both Tanzania and Burundi have advised their citizens to rely on herbal and traditional medcines to fight the virus.
Within four days of each other, the health ministers of Burundi and Tanzania speaking respectively last February 4 and 8, said their countries did not intend to import the vaccines.
Burundi’s Health minister Thaddee Ndikumana told reporters last February 4 that the landlocked country was prioritizing prevention, including closing itsland and maritime borders to all traffic but cargo during the second week of January 2021.
“The ministry has no plans to receive vaccines for Covid-19,” Tanzania’s Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima told a press conference in the capital, Dodoma, last February 8.
Twelve days earlier, Tanzanian President John Magufuli had discouraged his health ministry from acquiring COVID-19 vaccines, suggesting that they may be neither safe nor effective.
Magufuli has mocked claims that COVID-19 vaccines work.
“If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, then vaccinations for AIDS would have been brought, tuberculosis would be a thing of the past, vaccines for malaria and cancer would have been found”.
Tanzanians “have lived for over one year without the virus because our God is able, and Satan will always fail,” Magufuli has been cited in news reports as saying.
Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye appeared to distance himself from the government of his predecessor, the late President Pierre Nkurunziza, who died of COVID-19, after being criticized of not taking the virus seriously.
Last year, Ndayishimiye described the virus as Burundi’s “worst enemy”, but appeared to take back everything when he said last month during a religious meeting in the political capital, Gitega, that the country was only seeing “new cases of COVID-19 because God is punishing us” for not respecting vows to serve the country without corruption.
COVID denialism has not stopped the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases from continuing to surge in both Burundi and Tanzania.
No fewer than 1,820 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Burundi as of Tuesday, 23 February 2021.
Tanzania stopped publishing or sharing any data on COVID-19 infections last May.
Health professionals across Tanzania have resorted to blaming COVID-a9-related deaths on pneumonia, in an effort to avoid irking officials who deny the pandemic is a reality.
Last weekend, Tanzanian officials organized funerals for two of the country’s most high-profile victims of COVID-19 to date: the first vice president of the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar and the country’s head of civil service.
Speaking at the funeral for the head of civil service over the weekend, Magufuli appeared to admit that COVID-19 is real, encouraging citizens to wear masks to prevent its spread.
Last Friday, The Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) called on the Tanzanian government to declare the presence of COVID-19 in the country and to announce mandatory preventive measures.
The TLS has said 25 of its members – all lawyers – have been killed by the virus as of last Friday.