The health ministry has struggled to get its message across.

“Some people still do not believe in the existence of the virus and they do not believe in the effectiveness of the vaccine,” said Dr. Ruba Falah Hassan, in the ministry’s media office.

At many vaccination clinics outside the Sadr strongholds, there has been so little demand that any Iraqi with ID or foreigner with a passport can be vaccinated after a few minutes wait.

Near central Baghdad’s Palestine Street, about 30 people waited for a Sinopharm vaccine on plastic chairs in the Al Edreesi health care center on Thursday. In this middle-class neighborhood most of those waiting appeared to be professionals or university students.

“We ask anyone who took the vaccine to send a message of reassurance in their groups. ” said Afraa al-Mullah, from the health center’s media department. “Anyone who took the vaccine must speak and say, ‘Here I am. I’m fine, get vaccinated.’”

The more that word spreads that vaccines are not harmful, she hopes, the more Iraqis would agree to be vaccinated.

“Iraq’s population is 40 million, 20 million must get vaccinated,” she said, calling the 400,000 who have been inoculated “a drop in the ocean.” She added: “We have people that do not believe in coronavirus. How can we convince them to vaccinate?”

Falih Hassan and Nermeen al-Mufti contributed reporting.

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