Tanzania has received the first consignment of over one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the planned mass rollout. The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines arrived on Saturday from the United States as part of the COVAX arrangement.
The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr. Dorothy Gwajima, received the consignment at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, in Dar es Salam.
“I would like to inform the public that the ministry has done its part on the verification process, and today on behalf of the government, we have received the first batch of 1,058,400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine,” she said.
Dr. Gwajima assured the public that the vaccine was safe after first being verified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and later by Tanzania through its internal verification processes which was the same procedure applied for other imported vaccines.
Dr. Gwajima said the vaccination process would start soon after all quality and control checks have been finalized, and that the vaccines will be given free of charge in health facilities and special centres to be introduced across the country to ease access.
“I call upon the public, particularly the priority groups to go for the vaccine so as to reduce the rate of infection, as well as reduce the number of patients demanding treatment and access to ventilators in health centres.”
The priority would be health workers, people above the age of 50, and those with underlying health conditions. Ten regions including Dodoma, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Mbeya, Kigoma Iringa, Mtwara and Arusha which have been hit most by COVID-19 will be given priority.
The Minister also informed that the country expects to receive other kinds of vaccines in the coming weeks. “I call upon the public, particularly the priority groups to go for the vaccine so as to reduce the rate of infection, as well as reduce the number of patients demanding treatment and access to ventilators in health centres.
Dr. Leonard Subi the Director of Vaccinations in the Ministry of Health said the Ministry was providing information on the vaccines to those who wish to take them voluntarily.
The Minister also warned against misinformation and advised the public to receive information from reliable sources.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Ambassador Liberata Mulamula thanked the United States for the consignment which she described as having arrived at an opportune time.
As part of the global effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, US Ambassador to Tanzania Donald Wright said his country was donating the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines as part of the US pledge to provide at least 25 million of 80 million doses globally to Africa.
Mr. Wright added that the US was sharing the vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic.
Also witnessing the arrival of the consignment were representatives of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO. The UNICEF Country Representative, Shalini Bahuguna, praised the Government of Tanzania for its efforts to ensure that the vaccines got to the country, saying that it was a huge milestone in the fight against the pandemic.
Ms. Bahuguna urged Tanzanians to go for vaccination because no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
WHO Representative Dr. Tigest Mengestu congratulated the Government of Tanzania for its commitment to work closely with other partners to get COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Mengestu said data shows that vaccination helps protect against COVID-19 and having it in Tanzania would help protect the people’s health.
According to the Ministry of Health, the total number of COVID-19 patients admitted throughout the country on 21 July 2021 was 682, with 29 deaths.
On 22 July, another 176 were admitted. Two weeks ago, according to Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima, the number of those admitted was 408, an indication that the cases are on the rise.
The Minister noted that there was a higher number of ailing people who have not gone to hospital and yet may need urgent medical attention and access to ventilators, and that the fuller statistics remain unknown. She advised the public to be extremely cautious as COVID-19 is real and a third wave is likely hitting the country.