Vaccination from the Corona virus has been stalled in Iraq for weeks, and apathy, fear and rumors prevent many from receiving the vaccination, despite the high risk of infection with the Coronavirus and the government’s calls for people to register for vaccinations.
And it took the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, to take the initiative to take the vaccine and photograph it last week to change the tide of things. Hundreds of Sadr’s followers are now heading to clinics to follow his example, in a scene that underscores the strength of sectarian loyalties in Iraq and a deep distrust of the state. Read also One of the richest countries in the world .. Why does Iraq resort to foreign aid to confront the outbreak of Corona?The New York Times: Iraqis ignore anti-Corona measures amid a conviction for herd immunity Middle East Eye: This is how travel agencies in Basra are faking Corona tests
“I was rejecting the idea of vaccination,” said Manhal Al-Shibli, a 30-year-old Iraqi from Najaf, south of Baghdad. “I was afraid. I did not believe that,” said Manhal Al-Shibli.
“Seeing Al-Sadr receiving the vaccine motivated me,” Al-Shibli added. Al-Shibli likened the matter to the soldiers who activate when they see their leader on the front line.
Iraq is facing a second severe wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the number of new infections rose to more than 8,000 per day last month, the highest rate ever.
Public indifference to the virus was the reason behind the increase, as many routinely violate the restrictions imposed by the authorities to confront the outbreak of the epidemic, refuse to wear face masks and continue to hold large public gatherings.
Daily rates decreased last week, with 5,068 new cases reported last Monday. The Iraqi Ministry of Health has repeatedly tried to reassure Iraqis that vaccines are not harmful, but this has not convinced many who do not have confidence in the health care system.
The health system in Iraq – which has remained largely unchanged since the 1970s – was vulnerable to decline due to decades of war, sanctions and prolonged unrest. Since the US invasion in 2003, successive Iraqi governments have invested little in this sector.
Many people avoid going to public hospitals greatly, and last month a huge fire broke out in the Corona virus ward at Ibn Al-Khatib Hospital in Baghdad, killing more than 80 people and injuring dozens. Then Iraqi Health Minister Hassan Al-Tamimi was suspended from work due to alleged negligence, and he resigned on Tuesday due to the incident.
So far, fewer than 380,000 people have been fully vaccinated in a country of 40 million.
Faris al-Lami, assistant professor of community medicine at the University of Baghdad, says that the government is widely seen as corrupt, and that its actions since the beginning of the epidemic have only deepened the public’s mistrust of it.
He cited some early practices, such as using security forces to take patients from their homes as if they were criminals, and stopping burying the dead from the virus for several weeks.
Al-Lami also referred to what he said were problematic policies currently, for example, he said that high-risk patients, such as those suffering from chronic diseases or immunodeficiency diseases, must wait in hospitals to receive their injections, which exposes them to the risk of infection, and at the same time, People who have personal relationships can easily get it.
He said that it is a positive development when the vaccination of a political or religious figure encourages people to take their injection, but stressed that “the ideology that is based on blindly following the decision of any person is a disaster in itself.”
Iraq received 336 thousand new doses of the “Oxford-AstraZeneca” vaccine in late March, and Iraqis over the age of 18 became eligible to receive the vaccine. Last month, the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in the country, with 49,000 doses.
The official at the Ministry of Health, Ruba Hassan, said, “All vaccines that entered Iraq are safe and effective … But until this moment, some citizens are afraid to get vaccinated because of malicious rumors.”
As a result, the Ministry of Health announced measures to push Iraqis to obtain the vaccine, including travel restrictions for those who cannot show the vaccination card, and the separation of employees from stores, shopping centers and restaurants. These measures prompted more people to search for vaccines, but they confused and angered Iraqis who remain largely conservative.