TANZANIA yesterday received the first batch of over one million Johnson Covid-19 vaccines donated by the United States government through the COVAX arrangement, as the country plans to inoculate around 34 million of the population.
The population represents 60 per cent of Tanzanians who will be vaccinated on voluntary basis, while priority will be given to frontline health care workers, people with chronic diseases as well as adults 50 years and above.
Such a move comes hardly a week after the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Dorothy Gwajima reported a staggering increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, where by Friday there were 858 patients and 29 deaths.
Receiving the consignment, Dr Gwajima said the Covid-19 vaccines, like any other the country has been receiving, have gone through all the necessary reception procedures of health products, extending recognition to the US government for the support which has come at an opportune time.
"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 vaccine," said Dr Gwajima.
She went on to reveal that the vaccine is safe after first being verified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and later the country through its own verification systems, a procedure being employed to other imported vaccines.
According to the Minister, the vaccines will soon start to be administered after all the quality and control checks have been finalised.
Besides, the vaccines will be issued free of charge in different health facilities and other special centres which will be introduced across the country to ease access.
She directed the responsible organs to prepare well for the exercise to give way for people to timely access the vaccines.
High risk regions including Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Kilimanjaro, Mbeya, Arusha, Kigoma, Singida, Dodoma, Iringa and Mtwara will also be given top priority in issuance of the vaccines.
Dr Gwajima disclosed that the country is expecting to receive other kinds of vaccines in the coming few weeks, pointing out that more information and procedures will be availed as the consignments arrive.
"I call upon the public, particularly the first priority groups to go for the vaccines to reduce the rate of infection, long treatments including piling up of patients in health facilities demanding ventilator machines," stressed the Minister.
She warned against misinformation by so-called health experts, urging the public to refrain from consuming information from unreliable sources.
United States Ambassador to Tanzania, Donald Wright observed that the donated vaccines are part of the US pledge to provide at least 25 million of 80 million doses globally to Africa.
Ambassador Wright said the arrival of the single shot of Johnson & Johnson Covid- 19 vaccine will help protect Tanzanian people from the ravages of the pandemic and begin reducing barriers to building back the economy.
"We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic.
Sharing these vaccines also serves as another example of the strength of our 60-year partnership and commitment to Tanzania.
"The US has provided more than 26 million US dollars in direct US government assistance to fight Covid-19 in Tanzania since the pandemic began last year," said Ambassador Wright.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Ambassador Liberata Mulamula expressed appreciation to the government of United States, saying the vaccine under the COVAX arrangement demonstrates true friendship.
On her part, WHO Country Representative, Dr Tigest Mengestu was of the view that vaccination offers long lasting immunity against severe and deadly Covid-19.
"With vaccines available in the country, Tanzania's armour of responding to the pandemic has been strengthened further," she noted.
UNICEF Country Representative, Ms Shalini Bahuguna emphasized that no one was safe until all the people are safe, urging people to follow all the experts' advice, including vaccination.
"Partnership is the only way to solve our problems, the Covid-19 has taught us," noted Ms Bahuguna.
She commended Tanzania for having the strongest immunization systems across the world, noting that the country can use the experience to make the Covid-19 situation a success.