BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq launched its coronavirus inoculation program Tuesday just hours after the first doses of vaccine arrived from China, a Health Ministry spokesman said, amid a spike in infections across the country.
The program kicked off as Iraq comes to grips with a second wave of the coronavirus, and got underway days before a much-anticipated visit by Pope Francis. It will be his first foreign trip since the pandemic erupted last year.
At dawn, a C-130 military plane arrived in Baghdad with 50,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses gifted by China. More were expected as Iraq’s government has allocated funds to secure 1.5 million vaccines from Pfizer and signed a contract for 2 million more from AstraZeneca.
China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success targeting low- and middle-income countries for doses, and Iraq is the latest country to receive them.
On Tuesday, Iraq recorded over 4,600 new cases over the previous 24 hours, inching closer to a September peak of over 5,000 new infections within a 24-hour period. A total of 703,000 Iraqis have been infected and 13,450 have died of the virus.