Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Wednesday launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the country, reported Africa News.
The government received over one million single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the Covax global initiative that seeks to provide equitable access to doses for lower-income countries.
Hassan received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in public, encouraging others to get vaccinated too. She was joined by the prime minister, the chief justice, and other leaders in taking the jab. She expressed confidence in the safety of vaccines and said the country of more than 58 million people will pursue more.
“We will make sure our country has enough vaccines for those who are willing to be vaccinated,” Hassan said during the launch ceremony in Dar-es-Salaam, before taking her vaccine live on national television.
Former Tanzanian president John Magufuli was one of a handful of political leaders who dismissed the coronavirus pandemic and rejected foreign-made vaccines in favor of the healing power of prayer.
Magufuli’s government had even stopped releasing Covid-19 data in April 2020. At the time, the health authorities had counted 509 cases and 16 deaths.
But since Magufuli’s death in March, his successor President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been promoting measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country. The new Tanzanian government has admitted that the country is currently battling the third wave of infections.
President Hassan sought to reassure people about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines.
“I wouldn’t risk my life … I want to set a good example to the public,” she said.
Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima also vowed to roll out a comprehensive public education campaign to counter vaccine misinformation. The minister said the vaccines are the modern weapon to reverse coronavirus and eliminate it like polio and other diseases.
The Tanzanian health authorities will give priority to frontline workers, the elderly and those with underlying diseases.