NAIROBI (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) urged Tanzania on Thursday to follow science, a day after its president said COVID-19 vaccines were dangerous and unnecessary if people trusted God and used alternative remedies such as inhaling steam.
President John Magufuli’s contradiction of the global medical consensus and his government’s failure to publish national coronavirus data since mid-2020 has exasperated health experts.
“Urging #Tanzania to ramp up public health measures such as wearing masks to fight #COVID19,” tweeted Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director for the WHO.
“Science shows that #VaccinesWork and I encourage the government to prepare for a COVID vaccination campaign.”
On Wednesday, Magufuli said, without evidence, that vaccines may be part of a foreign plot to spread illness and steal Africa’s wealth.
“We in Tanzania managed to stay for a year without corona. Even here, no one has put on a mask. Our God is beyond Satan and Satan will always fail using different diseases,” he said in a speech in his western home area.
Previously, Magufuli has also scoffed at imported testing kits, saying they returned positive results on a goat and fruit.
Tanzania has not published nationwide figures since May 8, when it had 509 cases and 21 deaths.
“Data-sharing by #Tanzania is also key, with cases surfacing among travellers and visitors over the months,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a tweet echoing Moeti’s remarks.
(Reporting by George Obulutsa and Omar Mohammed; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Alex Richardson)