Tanzania’s government, which has been criticised for its handling of the pandemic, has no plans to rollout Covid vaccines, the health minister says.
The comments come days after President John Magufuli warned officials against acquiring vaccines saying they could harm people, without giving evidence.
Millions of people have already been inoculated in many countries after the vaccines were given emergency approval.
Vaccines are rigorously tested in trials involving thousands of people before being assessed by health regulators. They look at all the data on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines before approving them for use on a wider population.
Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Tanzania to consider inoculating its population.
Tanzania is one of the few countries in the world to not publish any data on Covid-19 cases. It last did so in May, when about 500 cases and 20 deaths were recorded. The following month, Magufuli declared Tanzania “coronavirus-free”.
Last month, the president said some Tanzanians had travelled abroad to take the vaccine but “ended up bringing us a strange coronavirus”. The comments were seen as an apparent admission that the virus may be circulating in the country.
At a news conference on Monday, Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said: “For now the government has no plans to receive the Covid vaccine being distributed in other countries.”
The minister urged Tanzanians to take precautions and to use traditional medicine as a way of dealing with coronavirus, although their efficacy to combat the virus has not been scientifically confirmed.
A blogger shared photos of Dr Gwajima and other officials inhaling steam and taking a herbal concoction.
Dr Gwajima also warned media outlets not to report unofficial information on coronavirus or any disease. The warning comes after the Catholic Church said it had observed an increase in requiem masses, blaming funerals on a spike in coronavirus infections.
The US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised against all travel to Tanzania and updated its alert to level four, meaning transmission of coronavirus in the country is “high or rising rapidly”.
Many African states are buying vaccines through an international scheme called Covax, but some are also planning to negotiate directly from pharmaceutical companies.
The Covax scheme aims to make it easier for poorer countries to buy vaccines amid growing concerns that wealthier nations are snapping them up and practising “vaccine nationalism”.
South Africa, which has the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths on the continent, received its first shipment of vaccines on Monday – the AstraZeneca vaccine from a manufacturer in India.
About 1.2 million front-line health workers would be the first to be inoculated, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
More than 1.4 million people in South Africa have contracted the virus and 44,164 are known to have died, according to Johns Hopkins University research.
African states that have started rolling out vaccines include Egypt, Guinea, Morocco and Seychelles