The Claim: Leaders of Several Countries Unexpectedly Died After Refusing to Accept COVID-19 Vaccines
A range of social media posts link the recent assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and the “unexpected deaths” of several other country leaders to their opposition to COVID-19 vaccinations.
Several articles mention the presidents of Haiti, Burundi and Tanzania, but others suggest that the fates of several other countries are also linked.
A now-deleted Instagram post has dragged Côte d’Ivoire and Eswatini into theory along with Haiti, Tanzania and Burundi. A meme in at least five other posts on Instagram and Facebook mentions the same countries.
“What do all of these world leaders have in common? They all opposed immunizing the citizens of their countries,” the screenshot of the post read. ” What else ? They were all recently murdered or died under suspicious circumstances.
A Facebook post on July 10 predicted a similar outcome for the Madagascan president.
“Madagascar also refuses the vaccine. I hope their president is safe because history shows what happens when you refuse it,” read a page titled “Redpill USA 3” which quotes a Tweeter by Shannon Kroner.
Another post claimed that the president of Madagascar had already passed away.
USA TODAY has contacted the creators of the posts for comment.
On both platforms, at least seven similar posts have generated thousands of reactions. Facebook users shared the claims over 950 times in total, while on Instagram over 2,000 users liked the claims.
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However, different theories confuse some of the facts about leadership deaths and vaccination policies. Although four of the seven countries initially hesitated, all except Madagascar and Burundi have now accepted the vaccines. And only two current presidents – those of Haiti and Tanzania – have died after refusing the COVID-19 vaccines offered to them.
Four countries initially refused vaccines, three now accepting them
As some articles claim, Tanzania, Burundi, Madagascar and Haiti have all “refused” the COVID-19 vaccineat one point.
Dorothy Gwajima, Minister of Health of Tanzania, said in February that the country “has no plan in place to accept COVID-19 vaccines” because it “is” not yet convinced that these vaccines have been clinically proven safe, ”according to a medical journal The Lancet.
Burundi’s Minister of Health, Thaddee Ndikumana, told reporters in February that “vaccines are not yet necessary” and that prevention is more important.
Madagascar also initially refused to participate in the COVAX initiative, a program supported by the World Health Organization that provides free vaccines to the world’s poorest countries.
Haiti has refused a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX citing concerns about side effects, according to the New Humanitarian. But the director of the Haitian Ministry of Health, Laure Adrien, told Bloomberg that at the time, the country had requested that a different vaccine be sent in its place.
“Haiti did not reject Covax’s vaccine offer,” Adrien told the point of sale in a telephone interview. “All we asked was that they change the vaccine they were giving us.”
In recent months, three of these countries have accepted vaccines.
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Haiti cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in mid-May and said it would accept COVAX vaccines, according to the Miami Herald. Tanzania requested vaccines in mid-June, also through COVAX, the Wall Street Journal reported. And Madagascar received its first batch of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca from COVAX in May.
Ivory Coast, Eswatini, Zambia did not refuse the vaccines
Various articles on social media have referred to Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini and Zambia as having seen their leaders die after refusing the vaccine. All have faced vaccine shortages and delays, but there is no evidence that leaders in these countries have taken a stand against COVID-19 vaccinations.
As vaccine administrators faced widespread citizen hesitation, Côte d’Ivoire received 504,000 AstraZeneca vaccines in February out of 1,740,000 doses allocated to it by the COVAX program.
Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) received her first doses in March. The World Health Organization reported that the country administered nearly 110% of those 32,000 vaccines, saving the small amount of extra liquid in each vial to deliver more doses.
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Finally, Bloomberg reported in March that Zambia had no plans to roll out the vaccine. However, no categorical refusals were reported, as one post claims. The country received 228,000 doses of the COVAX initiative on April 12.
No evidence that presidents’ premature deaths were linked to vaccine response
The leaders of Haiti, Burundi, Tanzania, Eswatini and Côte d’Ivoire have died suddenly in recent months. And some may have died from COVID-19. However, the presidents of Madagascar and Zambia are still alive.
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza died on June 8, 2020 from cardiac arrest, long before vaccines were available for distribution. Nkurunziza was due to step down as president in August, a post he held for 15 years.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli died on March 17 from heart complications after unconfirmed speculation he may have contracted COVID-19. And Jovenel Moïse, President of Haiti, was assassinated on July 7 at his home. The investigation into his murder is ongoing.
Ivorian Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko, who was undergoing cancer treatment, also died this year, according to the BBC. He was pronounced dead in a German hospital in March.
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In two other cases, Posts mistakenly appointed a deceased former president rather than a current leader.
One post claimed that “President of Madagascar” Didier Ratsiraka died suddenly. However, Ratsiraka, a former president, was 84 when he died on March 28, RFI reported.
Another article suggested a link between the delayed deployment of the vaccine in Zambia and the death of Kenneth Kaunda in July. But Kaunda, 97, has been out of power since his tenure as the country’s first president ended in 1991, the BBC reported.
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Finally, a popular meme included Eswatini’s prime minister, Ambrose Dlamini, among those murdered. The BBC reported that no cause of death had been given for Dlamini, but that he had tested positive for COVID-19 four weeks previously and received treatment for it when he died.
There is no evidence to support the claim that there are “dots” to connect between the death of leaders and the rollout of vaccines in their countries.
Our rating: False
We note FALSE the claims that the leaders of several countries died unexpectedly after refusing to accept COVID-19 vaccines. The presidents of Tanzania and Haiti both died unexpectedly this year and also rejected initial vaccine offers, but there is no evidence that these two facts are linked. The Burundian president died in March 2020, long before vaccines were available.
Among the other countries listed in various articles – Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Zambia and Eswatini – only Madagascar initially refused COVID-19 vaccines. None of the leaders of those countries died during his tenure this year.
And there is no evidence of deaths linked in any way to national decisions on the COVID-19 vaccine.
Our sources of fact-checking:
- The Lancet, February 13, Tanzania refuses COVID-19 vaccines
- Associated Press, February 5, Burundi says it does not need COVID-19 vaccines, at least for now
- The New Humanitarian, July 5, Haiti still awaits first COVID vaccines, as cases rise
- Miami Herald, May 20, OPS: Haiti Authorizes AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Use As Deaths and Infections Rise
- The Wall Street Journal. June 17, after a year of refusal of Covid-19, Tanzania orders vaccines
- BBC News, March 18, John Magufuli: Tanzanian President dies at 61 after Covid rumors
- BBC News, June 9, 2020, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza dies of “cardiac arrest” at age 55
- UNICEF, May 8, Madagascar receives the first batch of 250,000 doses of vaccine as part of the COVAX initiative
- France Inter, May 17, In Madagascar, vaccination operation for French and Europeans
- The Washington Post, April 4, Côte d’Ivoire is behind on its immunization schedule. Health workers fear that thousands of vaccines will expire.
- Bloomberg March 19 postponement of vaccination ignites Zambian opposition ahead of elections
- Bloomberg, June 8, Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere without vaccines
- BBC, July 2, Kenneth Kaunda: Memorial for Zambia’s first president
- BBC, March 11 Hamed Bakayoko: Ivorian Prime Minister dies in Germany
- BBC, December 14, 2020, Ambrose Dlamini: Prime Minister of Eswatini dies after testing positive for Covid-19
- Gavi, consulted on July 13, Deployment of the COVAX vaccine in Côte d’Ivoire
- Gavi, consulted on July 13, deployment of the COVAX vaccine in Zambia
- France 24, July 2, Africa’s last absolute monarch faces pressure for democracy as unrest shakes Eswatini
- World Health Organization, June 15, Donate 110%: Early launch of COVID-19 vaccines by Eswatini
- RFI, Mach 28, former Malagasy leader Didier Ratsiraka dies at 84
- USA TODAY, July 7 Haitian President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at his home; Biden calls this “very disturbing”
- USA TODAY, July 12, Florida Resident Detained in Haiti Investigation: What We Know
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