Iraq is studying Russian COVID-19 vaccine, but will only use with WHO approval: ministry

Iraqi doctors make testing components for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Basra, Iraq March 29, 2020. Picture taken, March 29, 2020. (Photo Credit: Essam al-Sundani/ Reuters)

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SULAIMANI — Iraq’s Ministry of Health and Environment said on Wednesday (August 12) that it is studying a reported new Russian COVID-19 vaccine, but said that it will not adopt it unless it is approved for use by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Technical Deputy Health Minister Hazem al-Jumaili said that experts in the ministry were working with the WHO to study the vaccine, but were only in the initial stages of doing so.

“The vaccine is new. Final information about it has not yet been completed,” al-Jumaili said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Health is not permitted to use any vaccine if it is not approved by the World Health Organization,” he said.

Nevertheless, some officials were eager to begin taking shipments of the vaccine, which was approved by Russian government authorities after less than two months of human testing.

A member of the Council of Representatives’ Parliamentary Crisis Cell, Nehru Muhammad, said that Iraq will receive the Russian vaccine soon and it will be given to critical COVID-19 cases.

Typically, vaccines are used preventatively to mitigate transmission of a virus, not as a therapeutic treatment for those who are already infected.

Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health and Environment Riyadh Abdul Amir that “Iraq has initiated coordination with the concerned authorities in the world to provide an effective vaccine” and claimed that it is working to ensure that large quantities will be available in Iraq.

He added that at-risk groups, like those with chronic diseases, the elderly and health care workers, will be given priority when administering any vaccine.

President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, according to Reuters.

Moscow’s decision to grant approval before final trials have been completed has raised concerns among some experts.

Putin and other officials have said it is completely safe. Government officials have said it will be administered to medical personnel, and then to teachers, on a voluntary basis at the end of this month or in early September. Mass roll-out in Russia is expected to start in October.

(NRT Digital Media/Reuters)