Tanzania gets first COVID-19 vaccine doses with shipment from US

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Tanzania received its first COVID-19 vaccine doses on Saturday with the delivery of 1 million Johnson & Johnson shots as part of a U.S. government donation after the African nation’s late president had long resisted accepting doses. 

The U.S. Embassy in Tanzania announced in a press release that Donald Wright, the U.S. ambassador to the East African country, had received the shipment in the major commercial port city of Dar es Salaam. 

The donation is part of the Biden administration’s commitment first announced last month to donate 25 million coronavirus shots abroad, partially through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX initiative. 

The embassy said the vaccine doses arrived via COVAX Saturday, with Wright saying in remarks that the donation will help Tanzania out of the pandemic and the economic hardships that ravaged the country as a result of the virus. 

“The United States is helping lead the world out of this pandemic, building a world that is safer and more secure against the threat of infectious disease,” the ambassador said. “All countries, regardless of income status, need vaccines that meet rigorous standards for safety and effectiveness.” 

“We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic,” he continued. “Sharing these vaccines also serve as another example of the strength of our 60-year partnership and our commitment to Tanzania.”

Wright cited previous remarks from President Biden, who said that the U.S. “is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.”

Up until his death in March, Tanzanian President John Magufuli had repeatedly refused to accept vaccine donations, casting doubt on the severity of COVID-19, as well as the need for social distancing rules and mask mandates. 

Magufuli, who was serving a second five-year term at the time of his death, also claimed last June that a three-day prayer had rid the country of the virus. 

His official cause of death released by state officials was heart failure.

Magufuli’s vice president, Samai Suluhu Hassan, took over as head of the country in March, becoming Tanzania’s first female president and reversing her predecessor’s stance of repeated COVID-19 denial. 

According to the WHO, Tanzania as of Friday had recorded 609 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as 21 deaths, though experts have said that the actual numbers could be much higher. 

Tags Africa biden administration coronavirus cases coronavirus death coronavirus pandemic Covax Joe Biden johnson & johnson Tanzania vaccine doses World Health Organization

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