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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy sends over 100,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Iraq

Iraq on Sunday received a donation of more than 100,000 AstraZeneca doses against Covid-19 from Italy via vaccine-sharing facility Covax, the UN children's agency UNICEF said.

Palestine receives a donation of 300,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in August 2021. Photo: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP
Palestine receives a donation of 300,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in August 2021. Photo: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP

More than four million people in Iraq, or around 10 percent of its 40 million inhabitants, have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab, according to the health ministry.

Healthcare workers say they are battling not just the coronavirus but also widespread scepticism over vaccines, as a result of misinformation and public mistrust in the state.

Iraq on Sunday received “100,800 (doses) of the AstraZeneca vaccine… the first delivery from a pledge of 15 million doses to be donated to Covax by Italy”, according to a statement from UNICEF, which works jointly with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Italy has pledged to donate 15 million doses of the anti-Covid vaccine to low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021, mainly through the Covax program.

Covax is backed by WHO, the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and it aims to ensure equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, particularly to low-income countries.

Italy’s donations began in August, and so far more than 4 million doses have been allocated, according to a press release published by Italy’s foreign ministry on Wednesday.

“One of the first countries to receive the donated doses will be Vietnam, to which 800,000 will be delivered in a few days,” said the ministry. Other countries due to receive vaccines from Italy in the near future are Albania, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen.

The donation made on Sunday is Iraq’s third vaccine delivery under the Covax program.

JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP

Iraq’s public health system, already worn down by decades of war, under-investment and corruption, has struggled to cope with the pandemic.

“In WHO, we believe that we are only safe when we all are safe, and we will control this pandemic only when all people eligible for the vaccine have been vaccinated,” said Ahmed Zouiten, WHO’s Iraq representative.

Iraq began its vaccination campaign in March, using the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm jabs.

The country has officially registered more than 1.9 million coronavirus cases, and almost 21,500 deaths since the start of its outbreak.

Measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing are widely ignored.

Two deadly fires this year in Covid-19 hospital units, one killing more than 80 people in Baghdad in April and another costing at least 60 lives in July in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq, have sparked outrage among the population.

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COVID-19 RULES

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.

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