Fact Check-No evidence leaders of Haiti, Tanzania and Zambia died due to vaccine rejection

A meme has falsely suggested a link between countries that rejected the COVID-19 vaccine and the unexpected deaths of their leaders.

The image shows a character from popular television show The Office pointing at a white board reading: “Three countries refused the COVID vaccine. Now all three of their presidents have died unexpectedly.” Below, it lists Jovenel Moise of Haiti, John Magufuli of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia (here).

There is no evidence to support the meme’s claim.


Tanzania’s President John Magufuli rejected COVID-19 vaccines in favour of traditional remedies like steam inhalation (here). His death was announced in March 2021 by the current President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who said Magufuli died from heart disease (here).

Social media posts later emerged claiming the former president had died of COVID-19 or was murdered, both of which were debunked by Reuters (here , here) and other fact-checkers (here).


Contrary to the meme, Zambia has not rejected COVID-19 vaccines.

The Zambian government announced in March that it had plans to vaccinate everyone over the age of 18, equating to 46% of its 18.3 million population (here).

Progress has been slow. The most recent data published by the health ministry on July 13 says the southern African nation has administered 210,992 shots to its population so far (here , here). At the current rate, Reuters calculated it would take a further 1,265 days to administer enough doses for another 10% of the population (here).

The rollout is unrelated to the death of Zambia’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda, who died of pneumonia aged 97 in June (here).

Kaunda, who ruled between 1964 and 1991, passed away in a military hospital where he was being treated for the lung condition (here , here , here). There is no evidence of foul play.


It is true that Haiti has yet to administer any COVID-19 vaccines and that the government is hesitant to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot. However, the country has not refused vaccines outright.

The Caribbean country was eligible for free vaccines through the COVAX scheme (here), launched by the World Health Organisation and global vaccine charities in April 2020 (here).

The programme, which distributes COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries, has fallen below its targets due to manufacturing issues in India (here). COVAX allocated 876,000 doses to reach Haiti in February this year (here , here) but inoculations are yet to begin.

Reuters reported in June that Haiti’s government was reluctant to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine due to safety and logistical concerns, while President Moise had urged Haitians to drink medicinal tea to ward off the virus (here).

But this was not a rejection of vaccines altogether. Haiti’s health minister told the Guardian newspaper in April that the government would prefer a single-dose vaccine to AstraZeneca, which requires two injections (here).

Crucially, there is no evidence of a causal link between the vaccine rollout and the death of President Moise.

Reuters reported that the Haitian leader was shot dead in his home on July 7 by heavily armed assassins (here). Police said they had arrested one of the suspected masterminds in the assassination who was accused of hiring mercenaries to oust and replace Moise (here).

While several details around the assassination remain unclear at the time writing, this incident and unrest may further inhibit inoculations in Haiti (here).


False. There is no evidence that the former leaders of Haiti, Tanzania and Zambia died in ways linked to their refusal of COVID-19 vaccinations.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .