Iraq launches Covid-19 inoculation drive to control second wave of infections

Iraq has approved three vaccines so far as new cases hover around 4,000 a day.

Iraq launched a Covid-19 inoculation campaign after receiving the first 50,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine as a gift from China.

An additional two million doses will be received soon, Health Minister Hassan Al Tamimi said as he received the first shipment at Baghdad International Airport on Tuesday.

Hours later, the country’s health authorities began the inoculation programme.

A video on social media showed the head of Baghdad’s Karkh Health Department, Chasib Al Hachami, administering the vaccine to a pharmacist.

The second wave swept the country with Pope Francis scheduled to start a historic visit to Baghdad at the end of this week.

His four-day visit will draw thousands of people when he visits Baghdad, the southern cities of Najaf and Nasiriyah and Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh in the north.

Shortly after the pandemic outbreak last year, Iraq joined the Covax initiative for low and middle-income nations to secure enough doses of vaccine for 20 per cent of its population of about 38 million people.

It has so far approved three vaccines: Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

First shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech was supposed to arrive last month but was delayed because of a request from the company for protection from any legal action that might be taken in connection with the doses, a process that needs parliamentary approval.

Daily case numbers dropped to their lowest levels in early January – about 600 and fewer than 10 deaths. The highest rate was in September when the country registered 5,025 cases and 122 deaths in one day.

But cases began to increase in recent weeks, hovering around 4,000 cases a day.

On Monday, the ministry reported 3,599 new cases and 22 deaths, bringing the overall number of confirmed cases to 699,088 and the death toll up to 13,428.

Updated: March 3, 2021 05:39 PM

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