Burundi Gives Disclaimer on Vaccine Side Effects

As Burundians await the delivery of the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines, the government made a public disclaimer last week on Wednesday that citizens will bear personal risks for receiving the jab, which is voluntary.

Health minister Thaddee Ndikumana said the country had received a letter from the World Bank announcing the deployment of the vaccines to the country, but went on to distance the government from the conditions attached to the vaccine consignment yet to be received.

He said the government will not sign any agreement with conditions in case there are side effects caused by the vaccine and that "the government will not compensate because we know there are vaccines that some Burundians took but we won't be accountable or pay money or compensation for citizens in case of damages."

Mr Ndikumana said that Burundians who wish to be vaccinated are free to take the jab, as some work for international organisations, while others travel frequently.

The government, however, didn't make it clear whether it will support a public vaccination campaign in the country, but pointed out that organisations willing to import vaccines including the World Bank initiative could do so.

"We want to tell citizens that the government's plan is to test and treat patients. The government didn't refuse to bring the vaccines, so anyone or organisation who wants to bring in vaccines, they can do so and when any citizen wants to be vaccinated they can," Mr Ndikumana said.

This government directive comes at a time when the country recorded 557 Covid cases in just four days this month, raising concern about the spread of infections.

The country has lifted the mandatory quarantine of arriving passengers whether tourists or returning Burundians living abroad. But an online pre-registration portal is open for all travellers to book for testing on arrival.

"We have seen some areas in the country where cases declined and in other areas the cases increased significantly like in Kirundo, Ngozi and Bujumbura so the national committee to combat covid-19 has taken the decision to launch mass testing in those affected provinces," said Burundi's health minister.

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