Dar es Salaam — Yellow fever certificates, which are supposed to be issued only to people who have been vaccinated against the tropical disease, are on sale on Dar es Salaam streets, an investigation by The Citizen has established.
The government is currently grappling with an acute shortage of yellow fever vaccine, prompting racketeers to cash in on the crisis.
Posing as a would-be traveller, this reporter was told where he could get a certificate without being vaccinated. Two people, who were scheduled to fly out last Thursday, said they had obtained yellow fever certificates from well-connected individuals operating at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital in Ilala Municplaity. This, according to public health experts, is in complete disregard of health rules.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, which also apply in Tanzania, travellers should take precautions against mosquito bites when in areas with confirmed yellow fever transmission.
"If you continue to live or travel in yellow fever-endemic areas, you should receive a booster dose of yellow fever vaccine after 10 years," says the CDC.
However, people bypass this procedure. In Tanzania, where the vaccine is reported to have run out, people have now opted to buy the certificates on a massive scale without actually being vaccinated against the disease.
"If you want one, don't bother going into the vaccination room. The government has run out of the vaccine. Just look around the hospital and you will get this certificate," a would-be traveller told this reporter.
A man outside the vaccination centre (name withheld) assured this reporter that he could get as many as 100 certificates for Sh5,000 each if there were "enough" people who desperately needed the documents.
Last week, the acting Director of Preventive Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr Khalid Mussa, was quoted saying the certificates were being sold by people who were not government employees, adding that plans were under way to introduce new cards which could not be easily forged.
Health ministry spokesperson Nsachris Mwamwaja has told The Citizen the government ordered over 1,000 doses of yellow fever vaccine from France to alleviate the current shortage.