Tanzania, Burundi miss out in interim distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

TANZANIA and Burundi are seemingly the only African countries not listed in the first interim distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines to be released by the COVAX Facility – a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of eventual COVID-19 vaccines.

Tanzania’s president John Magufuli, who declared his country “COVID-free”since June 2020 and ordered his government to stop tracking infections and releasing any data on COVID-19, has publicly said his country would not order Corona vaccines.

Burundi, which also has been in denial about the presence of COVID-19, despite several deaths including that of former president Pierre Nkurunziza in June 2020, has not sent any data to be considered by the COVAX Facility.

In East Africa, Rwanda will receive 996,000 doses, Kenya 4,176,000 doses, Uganda 3,552,000 and South Sudan 864,000 doses.

All other African countries are similarly poised to receive the much-awaited vaccines.

Today, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), as co-leads of the COVAX initiative for equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, alongside key delivery partner UNICEF, published the forecast, leaving out Tanzania and Burundi.

Apart from these African countries, South Korea has also refused to share any statistic and information on the pandemic, which is still claiming lives.

Building on the publication of the 2021 COVAX global and regional supply forecast, the interim distribution forecast provides information on early projected availability of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in 2021 and the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine candidate in first half 2021 to COVAX Facility participants.

This announcement comes less than two weeks after the announcement of the signed advance purchase agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech and a little more than a month after the first COVID-19 vaccine received WHO EU approval.

The purpose of sharing the interim distribution with countries, even in today’s highly dynamic global supply environment, is to provide governments and health systems with the information they need to plan for their national vaccination programmes.

WHO says the final allocations will be published in due course.

The interim distribution forecast outlines projected delivery of vaccine doses to all COVAX Facility participants, with the exception of participants who have either exercised their rights to opt-out, have not submitted vaccine requests, or have not yet been allocated doses.

In Tanzania, President Magufuli recently warned his people against the vaccines made by “white people,” saying they are not trustworthy.

A former science teacher and a PhD holder in Chemistry, Magufuli is denying the existence of the virus in Tanzania, saying God has rid the country of the infections but, paradoxically, he is advocating for the use of local herbs in countering the same infections.