Death & Denial

Death & Denial

We are in the pandemic nadir: Yesterday the CDC listed 118 of the 197 countries in the world as virulent, out-of-control hotspots, and a handful including South Africa received the dreaded U.S. travel bans.

But of all the countries of the world there is only one that has an aggressive policy prohibiting any vaccination whatever: Tanzania.

Tanzania’s Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima told the BBC that no vaccines would be welcome in the country following the directive by the President of the country, John Magufuli:

“Stand firm,” Magufuli told a crowd of supporters a week ago.

“Vaccinations are dangerous. If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for Aids by now.

“Let’s not think that they love us very much. This country is rich, and everyone is jealous of our vast wealth. We must be very careful,” Magufuli said.

Magufuli claims that a neighboring country was vaccinating young girls – “under 14″ – to make them infertile. He continues to insist that Tanzania has no virus “because our God is able and Satan will always fail.”

He warned Tanzanians to be on the lookout for neighbors and family members who were sneaking out of the country to get a vaccination but were really spies intending to bring a deadly virus back into the country when they return.

All this mumbo jumbo is happening as the Vice President of Zanzibar is hospitalized for covid and the Catholic Church of Tanzania announced nonstop requiem masses for the dying.

Kenya’s border at the moment is open with Tanzania but it closes often when Kenya determines travel between the two countries too dangerous.

Reports of mass night burials in Tanzania was reported by the BBC back in May. Brave souls like performance artists Alex Kalemera began to protest in the streets of Dar-es-Salaam. (His picture appears above.) Things have only gotten worse.

Magufuli is no dunce. He’s an artful manipulator, a dictator consolidating power with fear. The fact that he’s dragging Tanzania back into the dark ages doesn’t seem to matter right now, but when the world begins to open up he’s in trouble.

If Magufuli continues to prevent his citizens from getting the vaccine then the virus will rage out of control until herd immunity is achieved which could take years.

Do we vaccinated travelers still go there?

Each new study suggests that vaccinated persons will be protected even in a cauldron of disease. Typically a coronavirus vaccine protects not only the vaccinated but also those who aren’t by preventing the vaccinated from remaining a transmitter.

Astrazeneca released a study yesterday that news organizations are characterizing as evidence its covid vaccine prevents transmission. No other studies have yet been released either way.

Together with greater clarity emerging about what “efficacy” really means, I’ve concluded that a vaccinated traveler to a distant land can go safely and without concern of making things worse. When the tanking economies of developing countries are brought into consideration, reviving tourism as fast as possible seems almost a moral imperative.

But how strange it will be. Thirty years ago the authorities in East Africa didn’t claim there wasn’t yellow fever. We vaccinated might have felt guilty but we knew the extremely expensive shot was out of range for the people serving us dinner.

Now in Tanzania it’s not out of range. It’s against the law.