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).
“Thanks to the Government of Italy for its donation of 100,800 vaccine doses to Iraq through the COVAX facility” – stated @ShSenGupta. Vaccinate to protect yourself, your family and your community. #VaccinesWork @ItalyinIraq @MOHealth_Iraq @WHOIraq @gavi pic.twitter.com/XNBpaAtQJ6
— UNICEF Iraq – يونيسف العراق (@UNICEFiraq) September 12, 2021
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.
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.