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Tanzania activists urge government to begin COVID-19 vaccinations

Workers prepare face shields from recycled plastics at the Zaidi Recyclers workshop as a measure to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 27, 2020. (Reuters)

By Charles Kombe

The president of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, has said his government will soon import COVID-19 vaccines. This puts the region at odds with the national government, which has yet to approve any COVID vaccine. Opposition parties are urging the government to allow vaccinations to begin.

Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi said Saturday that he will allow COVID-19 vaccines to be administered in the semi-autonomous region. He said the vaccinations, when they begin, will be both optional and safe.

Hussein Ali Mwinyi makes an address after taking the oath of office in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Nov. 2, 2020. (AP Photo)

Mwinyi said there will be nobody who will be forced to get a vaccination they don’t want. He added we should not accept people’s sayings that if you get vaccinated would die; all over the world, people have been vaccinated. He said we will bring in the vaccine and those who want it will be vaccinated and those who don’t won't take the shot.

Former Tanzanian president John Magufuli, who died in March, denied the presence of COVID-19 in the country and dismissed the vaccines as unproven and risky.

The new president, Samia Hassan, accepts that the disease exists and has said she is looking to import vaccines. But still, weeks have gone by without any sign of vaccines being delivered to or administered in Tanzania.

Tanzania's new President Samia Suluhu Hassan attends the farewell mass for the late Tanzanian President John Magufuli before the burial at Magufuli Stadium in Chato, Tanzania, March 26, 2021. (AFP)

Rights activists like Deogratias Mahinyila say it’s high time the government to follow the world’s approach in handling the infections.

He says what is being done in Zanzibar and here on the mainland should be done quickly and go with this pace. Mahinyila adds that Tanzania is not an island; whatever we are doing should match with other countries in the world how they are handling this.

Some citizens say vaccinations will reduce the fear of infections.

Dar es Salaam resident Jackline Thomas thinks the government should speed up allowing vaccination to be brought in Tanzania "because we all know that vaccination is the main weapon to avoid a person getting ill." She says if a person gets the COVID-19 vaccine, that means the infections will not spread and we won’t live under fear.

After more than a year of pandemic, Tanzania still has no figures on the numbers of COVID-19 cases or the deaths caused by the disease.

Zanzibar’s president says he’ll import the vaccines by Saturday, although the details of the plan remain unclear.

This article was published by Voice of America.

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