Leadership change has brought in new pandemic team and policy
East African nation previously said it wouldn’t buy vaccines
Tanzanian leadership’s about-turn on the coronavirus received support from the World Health Organization and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which could help the country obtain vaccines and start to catch-up with other nations on the continent.
The east African country’s new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, announced plans earlier this week to appoint a panel of experts to advise her on how best to curb the spread of the virus.
The move is a complete shift from her predecessor’s stance, which was to initially deny the existence of the disease and stop the publication of Covid-19 infection data just months after the pandemic broke out.
The response to the virus by President John Magufuli, who died last month, raised concerns that not only was the local severity of the disease being downplayed, but that there was increased risk of the spread of significant variants that could affect vaccine efficacy across the continent.
“We welcome very sincerely this initiative by the new president of Tanzania, as well as the statements she’s made to the population to ensure people accept the virus is circulating in Tanzania and that she is seeking to understand better the situation,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said in a briefing Thursday.
The WHO has been in talks with Tanzania and offered expertise and discussed ways to access Covid-19 vaccines, she said.
In a separate online briefing, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said he’s “extremely encouraged with the signals” from Tanzania and that the body has offered clinical assistance.
“They have not officially requested anything from us, but we look forward to engaging with them further as they move forward with this task force,” he said.