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Burundi prepares to receive COVID vaccines

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Burundi is preparing to accept its first COVID-19 vaccines after becoming one of the last countries in the world to embrace them.

Health Minister Thaddee Ndikumana announced the government reversal last week and said vaccines will arrive with the support of the World Bank.

It was not immediately clear how many doses the East African country will receive or when.

Burundi continues to carry out mass screenings for the virus, with Ndikumana saying he expected to control the latest uptick in infections by mid-August.

He has said the government will store the incoming vaccine doses but will not take responsibility for any side effects.

Marie Vianey Ndikumana, the owner of an arts and crafts shop in Bujumbura, said she felt it was "really necessary" for Burundi to begin its vaccine rollout "for the good of our country".

But journalist Michou Miracle told the AP she remained sceptical of the safety of the shots and they were "not needed".

Burundi's announcement on July 29 came the same day that neighbouring Tanzania launched its vaccination campaign, retreating from former resident John Magufuli's denial of the pandemic.

He died in March and the presidency went to his deputy Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has since reversed course on COVID-19 in one of Africa's most populous countries.

Burundi's late president Pierre Nkurunziza, who died last year, also was criticized for taking the pandemic lightly.

The administration of his successor, President Evariste Ndayishimiye, earlier this year said the country of more than 11 million people didn't yet need COVID-19 vaccines.

Burundi has had more than 7,500 confirmed infections, according to the World Health Organization.

Burundi's decision leaves Eritrea, one of the world's most closed-off nations, as the only African country that hasn't accepted the vaccines.

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