Iraq receives over 100,000 coronavirus vaccine doses

Baghdad (AFP) –


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.

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).

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.

It 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.