REGIONAL REPORT

EAC prepares for vaccines but TZ, Burundi say ‘no thanks’

African Union, which has secured a deal to procure 270 million of the same for all member states.

In Summary
  • Rwanda has started rolling out the first phase of Covid-19 vaccination after receiving 1,000 doses of Moderna vaccine
  • Tanzania, which has said it has prayed Covid-19 away, has said it has no plans to acquire the vaccines
President Uhuru Kenyatta participated in a virtual meeting of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State and Government convened by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta participated in a virtual meeting of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State and Government convened by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
Image: PSCU

East African Community members states are expected to receive some 39 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from the African Union, which has secured a deal to procure 270 million doses for all member states.

Rwanda has started rolling out the first phase of Covid-19 vaccination after receiving 1,000 doses of Moderna vaccine. High-risk groups, among them healthcare workers, will be prioritised.

The country’s Ministry of Health said on February 11 that the limited initial doses were “acquired through international partnership in limited quantities”.

It, however, expects to receive at least 996,000 doses of AstraZeneca and 102,960 doses of the Pfizer vaccine between February and March from Covax and AU’s Africa Medical Supplies Platform.

The 270 million doses will be distributed through the Africa Medical Supplies Platform on behalf of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Neighbouring Burundi has said it does not need the vaccines.

Burundi’s Health minister Thaddee Ndikumana told reporters on February 4 that prevention is more important, and “since more than 95 per cent of patients are recovering, we estimate that the vaccines are not yet necessary.”

Burundi closed its land and water borders last month. It now has more than 1,820 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Tanzania says it has prayed Covid-19 away.

On February 8, Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima told a press conference in Dodoma, “the ministry has no plans to receive vaccines for Covid-19.”

If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, then vaccinations for Aids would have been brought, tuberculosis would be a thing of the past, vaccines for malaria and cancer would have been found,
President John Magufuli

On January 27, President John Magufuli warned the Health ministry against rushing to acquire Covid-19 vaccines, suggesting they may not be safe or effective.

“If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, then vaccinations for Aids would have been brought, tuberculosis would be a thing of the past, vaccines for malaria and cancer would have been found,” Magufuli said in western Tanzania.

VoA News quoted Magufuli saying Tanzanians “have lived for over one year without the virus because our God is able, and Satan will always fail.”

The last time Tanzania published any data on Covid-19 cases was in May last year.

Uganda has ordered 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and will pay $7 (Sh766) per dose for it, which is 20 per cent more than what many other states are paying.

The government said on February 2 that up to 40 per cent of the shipments are expected to arrive by the end of March.

The government said the vaccines would be procured from the Serum Institute of India, although the manufacturer told Reuters no deal had been reached.

As of Monday, Uganda had 40,019 Covid cases and recorded 328 deaths.

In Kenya, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe in January said they had ordered 24 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and expected them to start arriving in the second week of February. That is yet to happen.

He said priority for vaccination will be given to health sector workers and other essential workers such as teachers.

The government has since availed  Sh930 million to facilitate the introduction of the vaccines.

Taskforce on Vaccine Deployment and Vaccination chairman Dr Willis Akhwale on Monday said Unicef will support the transportation of the vaccines to the country’s airport.

By Monday, Kenya had recorded 103,000 cases and 1,795 deaths.

The youngest EAC member, South Sudan, will receive its first consignment of the AstraZeneca vaccine before the end of February.

The country's Health ministry said it would procure more than 800,000 doses. It has recorded 5,413 cases and 74 deaths by Monday.