NAIROBI, June 17 (Reuters) – Tanzania hopes to join the COVAX global vaccine-sharing facility, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday, the latest sign it has changed tack following the death in March of COVID-19- and vaccine-sceptic president John Magufuli.
A WHO official said vaccines could arrive in the country of 58 million people within two weeks.
Since taking office in March, new president Samia Suluhu Hassan has sought to gradually bring Tanzania into line with global public standards for tackling COVID-19.
The country is one of only four in Africa that have yet to start vaccination campaigns, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have received information that Tanzania is now formally working to join the COVAX facility,” the WHO’s regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti told a news conference.
Richard Mihigo of the WHO’s Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme in Africa said Tanzania had taken the preliminary steps of submitting a vaccine request form to COVAX and starting to prepare a vaccine deployment plan.
“We are expecting the vaccines to arrive in the country in the next couple of weeks,” he told the briefing.
Tanzanian authorities were not immediately reachable for comment.
In another indication of the country’s new approach, its finance minister said last week that the government has asked the International Monetary Fund for a $571 million loan to help it tackle economic challenges posed by the pandemic.
The IMF said Tanzania will be required to provide data on coronavirus infections as part of the talks for the loan.
Tanzania stopped reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths in May 2020 and despite other policy changes by the new president, has not resumed publicly reporting data.
“We are strongly encouraging the country, now that it’s going to address the situation through vaccination, to share data with us so that we can play the most effective role in helping — for example in targeting, in the planning, where to start, where to focus, that can only be done on the basis of evidence,” Moeti said.
(Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Additional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Catherine Evans)