For the Iraqi doctor, the Coronavirus vaccine is bittersweet


But most of all, she thought about her father, and how they were dreaming about this day, before the virus entered their home. Amer remembers him in her hospital chair in Baghdad last week, and he broke out in tears.

In Iraq, the arrival of Coronavirus vaccines in recent weeks has given medical workers hope that a possible exit from the epidemic. Instead, the volume of cases reached a climax. The country’s Ministry of Health recorded 7,817 new cases on Thursday, near a record high, as health officials predicted that the daily number would rise as the vaccination program in Iraq faltered, and preventive measures such as wearing masks and loosely social distancing were adhered to, however. .

Among those newly vaccinated are legions of Iraqi health workers, who say they feel they are being watched from the sidelines amid widespread doubts about the vaccine.

“People don’t believe in anything,” Aamir said. “Even if you give them scientific facts, they don’t believe them.” She was vaccinated in a Baghdad clinic with her husband and parents. Her side of the family did not join them.

Even before countries like Spain and Italy moved to limit the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, citing unclear research on potential side effects, more than half of Iraqis interviewed in a recent World Bank study said they were unsure of or against the signature. For vaccination.

Most of the Iraq vaccine doses are from AstraZeneca.

Health experts attribute the suspicion in part to the public’s mistrust of medical institutions after decades of government failure. Recently, they say, Iraqi authorities have undermined public confidence in the process and safety of vaccines.

Ali Al-Mawlawi, an independent Iraqi analyst who monitors the launch of the vaccine, said, “The delay in receiving the first shipment of vaccines, accompanied by contradictory statements from health officials, undoubtedly undermined the public’s confidence in the health authorities.”

The health system in Iraq was on its knees even before the pandemic broke out, after being hollowed out by decades of corruption and underfunding. Medical workers say the challenges during this pandemic have been unrelenting.

The vaccination program began in the country in March, with the arrival of the first 50,000 doses of the vaccine from Sinopharm, donated by China, and then a shipment of 336,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was received, through a global initiative supported by the World Health Organization to ensure equitable access.

The numbers are lackluster compared to Iraq’s needs: the country has a population of 40 million. However, a month after the vaccination campaign, only 118,000 people were vaccinated.

On the opening days of the program, Iraqis lined up outside the medical facilities amid a clamor of chatter. They asked: Is the shot painful – or even working? What about side effects?

These lines have turned out to be trickle. Inside the Mohammed Al-Jawad Medical Center in Baghdad, Ghassan Muhammad, the orthopedic doctor who now oversees the facility’s vaccination program, counts only about 10 recipients per day.

He said, “Honestly, it hurts to see.” If only we could vaccinate everyone. It will be the happiest day of my life. “

Amer Ramadan’s father, 67-year-old Amer Ramadan, was diagnosed with cancer before the virus reached Iraq, and the first cases of Coronavirus in Iraqi hospitals coincided with his first appointment for chemotherapy. Amer, the same oncologist, could not take the risks he would be exposed to by going to the same medical facilities as those injured.

So she went back to her books and learned how to do chemotherapy on her own. He hated staying home, but she insisted.

According to Amer, it was her father, a retired teacher, who encouraged her to become a doctor in the first place. “Whatever happened, he believed in me,” she recalls. After school’s late hours, he would buy her ice cream. When she finished her finals, they celebrated at the Book Market on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, scanning the stalls while he taught her the history of the street.

When the cancer spread, she banned visitors from entering the house and told her father not to see anyone. He didn’t like it, but he was a good listener. She said, “It was a really great performance.” “All that year, I was just trying to save his life.”

He finished his treatment in August, and I thought it worked. Weeks later, they realized that a vaccine for the virus might also be possible. For Ramadan, who was taking antidepressants while struggling to cope with his isolation, this was finally cause for hope.

The World Health Organization said in October that Iraq would be one of the first countries in the region to receive vaccines. But none of it materialized. As autumn turns into winter, the number of coronavirus cases has risen again.

Then symptoms of the Corona virus appeared on Ramadan.

When he entered the hospital, Amer could not find a bed for him. “For a whole year I tried to save lives. But when my father passed away, I couldn’t do anything for him. She said in a broken voice. There was no medicine. There was no cure.”

When Amer arrived at the health clinic in Baghdad last week to get the first vaccine, from the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine, the corridors there and in medical facilities around the capital were quiet.

Those who signed up to get vaccinated were mostly medical workers. Others were elderly. They reminded her of her father.

Once that’s done, she is right back at work, knowing that the hospital wards will be full when she gets there. In the car, she took out her iPhone and wrote a letter to her father, to anyone who might pay attention to her.

And she wrote on a picture of Ramadan, smiling calmly in his flat hat, as she puts her head on his shoulder, “Corona removed you from me before you had the opportunity to get the vaccine.”

“I just wanted to tell people;” Aamir said. “Just get the vaccine, please. You can save your loved ones. “

Mustafa Salem contributed to this report.

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