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China didn’t recover from Covid-19 without vaccines – and Tanzanian president Magufuli didn’t make claim

A graphic shared widely on Facebook claims that Tanzanian president John Magufuli has questioned why Africa needs Covid-19 vaccines when China has recovered from the pandemic without them.

“If China recovered in three months from the devastation of Covid-19 without a single vaccine, why do they want to force Africans to be vaccinated?” the graphic quotes Magufuli as saying. It includes a photo of the president. 

The graphic was shared by many Facebook and Instagram accounts in the first weeks of January 2021. 

Is the quote accurate? And did China recover from Covid-19 in three months without vaccines? We checked.


No evidence Magufuli made statement

Africa News reported in December 2020 that an unnamed Tanzanian health ministry spokesperson had said the country had no plans to import Covid-19 vaccines. 

The spokesperson added that local health experts were conducting clinical trials to investigate the efficacy of local herbs against Covid-19. 

But the news outlet did not quote Magufuli directly or report that he had publicly questioned the need for vaccines or claimed that China had recovered without them. 

Magufuli has previously made headlines for statements about Covid-19. In May 2020 he queried the coronavirus testing kits used in Tanzania, claiming that they had returned positive results for samples that had been taken from a goat and a pawpaw. 

In June he claimed Covid-19 had been “eliminated by God” in Tanzania after people had prayed and fasted. 

Magufuli also promised to import Covid-Organics, an artemisia-based tonic created in Madagascar to cure Covid-19. (Note: Africa Check found there was no evidence that the tonic cured Covid-19.)

But we could find no evidence that the Tanzanian president has claimed that China recovered from Covid-19 in three months without vaccines. 

Covid-19 cases in China

The first cases of Covid-19 in the world were reported by officials in Wuhan, China in December 2019. By March 2020, Wuhan began easing lockdown restrictions after no new infections had been reported for almost a week.  

But China had not completely recovered from the virus. By June, the Chinese city of Hebei reimposed lockdown measures following a small surge of infections. In July the Xinjiang region reported a record number of infections and infections resurged nationwide. 

Reuters reported on 12 January 2021 that Chinese cities Langfang and Shijiazhuang had gone into lockdown after a new surge in infections. 

Rollout of vaccines

China is also rolling out Covid-19 vaccines. A locally produced vaccine, Sinopharm, was approved by Chinese officials in December 2020. 

Reportedly, over 1 million vaccines had already been administered by the Chinese government to high-risk workers. 

The state reportedly plans to vaccinate 50 million people by the upcoming lunar new year, in February 2021. China has a population of almost 1.4 billion.  

There is no evidence that Tanzanian president Magufuli questioned why Africa needed Covid-19 vaccines when China had recovered in three months without them. China still has Covid-19 cases and has begun vaccination rollout. 

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