NAIROBI, Kenya -- Burundi has become at least the second African country to say it doesn’t need COVID-19 vaccines, even as doses finally begin to arrive on the continent that’s seeing a deadly resurgence in cases.
The health minister of the East African nation, Thaddee Ndikumana, told reporters on Thursday evening that prevention is more important, and “since more than 95% of patients are recovering, we estimate that the vaccines are not yet necessary.”
The minister spoke while announcing new measures against the pandemic. The country closed its land and water borders last month. It now has well over 1,600 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Neighboring Tanzania this week said it had no plans to accept COVID-19 vaccines after President John Magufuli expressed doubt about them, without giving evidence. He insists the country has long defeated the virus with God’s help but faces growing pushback from fellow citizens, and officials with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have urged Tanzania to cooperate.
Burundi’s previous government under the late President Pierre Nkurunziza also had been criticized for not taking COVID-19 seriously. But current President Evariste Ndayishimiye last year described the virus as Burundi’s “worst enemy.”
Last month he told a religious meeting in the political capital, Gitega, that “we are seeing new cases of COVID-19 because God is punishing us” for not respecting vows to serve the country without corruption.
When leaders don’t fulfil such promises, “it’s the whole family that has to be punished,” he said.