The current president of Tanzania is starting that the country has eradicated Covid-19 and is dismissing the need for vaccines.. Why am I writing about this in a wildlife blog? The way that governments react to science is a good indication of the way that they will react to the natural world within their borders.
Unfortunately eliminating Covid within your borders does not make vaccination irrelevant – this illness spread rapidly around the world. Were it fully eradicated with in Tanzania it would likely rapidly re-emerge, However, suggesting that it is eliminated appears extremely premature. Either way, as a country highly reliant on tourism travelers are likely to bring it back regularly without a thorough vaccination program . John Magufuli, the president of the country, has been continually talking of Covid as a hoax (the same as Trump, early in the Covid outbreak there). Having ordered to stop counting infections or deaths back last May, he is claiming that the country has been Covid free ever since – he has even taken to attacking Tanzanians who manage to get vaccinated.
He has unfortunately just been re-elected for 5 years and it seems that he is feeling released and can now do whatever he thinks without worrying about whether there is any scientific backing for it.
Between the hoarding of vaccines by rich countries (an example is the UK, with a population of about 65 million, give ordered around about 407 million vaccine doses, many times more than what we need), are we at risk of simply creating another illness that we need to vaccinate against when we visit countries in the developing world?
Even if we look at this selfishly it is short-sighted, as it creates the perfect breeding ground for new strains to emerge – which we will then have to spend billions of pounds inoculating our country against.
This also adds an extra cost for tourists visiting Tanzania. Given the huge amount of land Tanzania has set aside for conservation, we need to make sure that no more barriers go up otherwise these wild areas will be lost.