Iraq began its coronavirus inoculation program on Tuesday just hours after the first doses of a vaccine donated by China arrived, a Health Ministry spokesman said, amid a surge in infections across the country.
The program began as Iraq faces a second wave of coronavirus cases and just days before an expected visit from Pope Francis. It will be the pontiff’s first trip abroad since the pandemic broke out last year.
A C-130 military plane arrived in Baghdad at dawn, with 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China. More were expected as the Iraqi government allocated funds to secure 1.5 million vaccines from Pfizer and signed a contract for an additional 2 million from AstraZeneca.
China launched a vaccine diplomacy campaign, targeting low- and middle-income countries in need of doses, and Iraq was the most recent country to receive them.
Health Minister Hasan al-Tamimi was the first to receive the vaccine. He was followed by other members of the ministry staff and essential frontline healthcare workers, said ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr.
A health center near Al-Mustansiriya University will provide vaccines to the elderly, al-Badr said.