Nairobi – Only a trickle of Burundians have turned up to get a Covid-19 shot since the country launched a vaccination drive this week, one of the last in the world to do so.
In a change of heart, Burundi’s government only recently agreed to accept vaccine doses from abroad, and last week received a donation of 500 000 doses of China’s Sinopharm drug.
“We started off the vaccinations yesterday (Monday) in Bujumbura… with only about 25 volunteers turning up, and there weren’t very many today,” a doctor told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Burundi’s leaders previously played down the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and officials have said they would not conduct awareness campaigns about the vaccines – and that the government would not take responsibility for any side-effects.
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“If you have adverse consequences tomorrow, don’t blame the government for not warning the population about the risks of Covid-19 vaccines,” Prime Minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni said in a speech Sunday.
“Of course we cannot prevent those who want to be vaccinated from going, it is their right,” he said, but voiced scepticism over the jabs.
“The vaccine against Covid was discovered very quickly so those who invented it do not yet know the harmful consequences it has.”
Only two nations have yet to launch Covid vaccination drives: the largely closed-off countries of Eritrea and North Korea.
According to figures reported to the World Health Organization, Burundi has registered a total of 19,730 Covid cases with 14 deaths.
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