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Iraq receives first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from China

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq received its first 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by China as the country is struggling to cope with a new surge of the disease.

An Iraqi military transport plane carrying the first batch of the vaccines from China landed at Baghdad International Airport late on Monday.

“We urgently asked for this shipment in coordination with Chinese embassy. We thank and appreciate China for supporting the Iraqi people”, Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi said during a ceremony to receive the consignment.

The doses will be offered to health workers, elderly people and members of the security forces first, the Iraqi health ministry said in a statement. State television said the inoculations started on Tuesday.

Hassan said Iraq has an agreement with Sinopharm Group to supply around 2 million doses of the vaccine that would be sent in stages.

Iraq has also agreements to receive vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer, said Hassan.

Iraq recorded last month a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections, including confirmed cases of one of the newer variants of the novel coronavirus.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Iraq is around 700,000, including 13,428 deaths as of March 1.

The rising cases, approaching levels of infection recorded last summer after a dip during the winter, have prompted authorities to announce a nightly curfew to try and contain the spread of the disease.

Reporting by Haider Kadhim and Khaled Abdul Qader, Writing by Ahmed Rasheed; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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