Despite the reports about a rising number of COVID-19 cases, Tanzania seems to be shunning coronavirus vaccines and placing its bets on herbal medicine instead.
Earlier in the week, Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said the ministry had no plans to procure vaccines.
“The ministry has no plans for vaccines. The vaccines must first be approved by the department of health. We do not know when vaccines will arrive, though Tanzania is part of the COVAX facility for Africa,” Gwajima said.
The official told the Tanzanian people that should the government provide vaccines, it would adhere to protocols deemed necessary.
The ministry is following the lead of Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who has often voiced skepticism regarding the use of vaccines. The country has not logged a single new case since May 9 of last year, and in June, the president declared Tanzania COVID-free thanks to citizens’ prayers, which he considers more effective against the pandemic than lockdowns and social distancing.
Tanzania currently counts 509 COVID-19 cases, as well as 183 recoveries and 21 fatalities, but there are reports that things may be worse than the official numbers show. On February 10, the US Embassy in the country issued a health alert, citing an increase in coronavirus cases.
“The U.S. Embassy is aware of a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases since January 2021. The practice of COVID-19 mitigation and prevention measures remains limited. The Tanzanian government has not released aggregate numbers on COVID-19 cases or deaths since April 2020. Healthcare facilities in Tanzania can become quickly overwhelmed in a healthcare crisis. Limited hospital capacity throughout Tanzania could result in life-threatening delays for emergency medical care,” the embassy said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the country is instead promoting a product developed by research scientist Hamis Malebo from the National Institute for Medical Research, called Covidol, believed to provide effective protection against coronavirus disease. According to Malebo, the medicine improves and strengthens the immune system and protects against infection.
The Council Chairman of Tanzania Traditional and Alternative Medicine, Edmund Kayombo told Sputnik that when it comes to vaccines they would play it by the ear to see responses to vaccination across Africa.
“We are searching for the best way and the best way will be to hear how our neighbors, Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya will respond to the vaccine. The government has encouraged that we use the herbal concoction called Covidol,” Kayombo said.
According to Siphamadla Zondi, an affiliate at the University of Johannesburg, Tanzania has already gone it alone when it comes to the response to COVID-19.
“First, it decided to be skeptical about basic information on the virus when all countries raised alarm about the disease. They stayed calm, free from panic and didn’t rush into measures most taken as advised by the WHO and Africa Center for Disease Control. It is no wonder that when the attention shifted to the acquisition of vaccines, Tanzania didn’t join the rush, but decided on its own route to immunity, the indigenous medical knowledge system,” Zondi told Sputnik.
When asked whether Tanzania’s decision is political or ideological, Zondi said that “Tanzania has been critical of the information coming from the world about the virus.”
“It is also because it wants to be self-reliant in its response to the virus and all other challenges that accompany and follow it. Its leadership does tend to buck trends on a number of subjects and this is not new or surprising,” the expert stated.