DODOMA, 28 July 2021 – Tanzanian President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has been vaccinated against the new coronavirus at the start of her country’s mass vaccination campaign.
Her inoculation took place in front of television cameras and the 61-year-old president urged fellow Tanzanians to take COVID-19 seriously by getting vaccinated.
Thanks to COVAX, the global initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and aimed at ensuring equitable access to vaccines, Tanzania recently received one million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
The Tanzanian leader has said more doses of the vaccines will be imported without saying exactly how many more.
“We are not an island and that is why now we are starting vaccination,” Hassan said of her country’s efforts to launch mass vaccination.
She said she had no intention of leading the country on a dangerous path, given that she is a mother and a grandmother, before being president.
“I’ve had several vaccines since birth and the ones we were given as babies have offered protection all those years, so I have no worries,” Suluhu Hassan told reporters.
Her position on COVID-19, including the decision to organize mass inoculation, is a reversal of the policy of denialism of the pandemic adopted by her predecessor, John Magufuli who died in office last March.
Magufuli was opposed to foreign-made vaccines, pledged not to import vaccines to fight the pandemic in Tanzania and invited Tanzanians to pray the virus out of their country.
Shortly before he died last March, rumors exploded on social media that he was seriously ill from COVID-19.
His death was officially blamed on a heart-related disease, but rumors have persisted that the respiratory disease of which he reportedly died was, in fact, COVID-19.
Soon after coming to power, Suluhu Hassan appointed a board to advise her on COVID-19.
She then invited Tanzanians to follow guidelines by public health officials, encouraging them to do what is needed to prevent or slow the spread of the virus.
She has, as with the vaccine, led by example, becoming one of the first Tanzanian officials to wear face masks in public.
Artists performed a song at the ceremony urging Tanzanians to get the jab.
Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday praised President Suluhu Hassan for the measures her government has taken so far, to reverse harmful policies put in place by her predecessor and to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.