San Francisco Chronicle

Cleric helps boost rollout

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Iraq’s vaccine rollout had been faltering for weeks. Apathy, fear and rumors kept many from getting vaccinated despite a serious surge in coronaviru­s infections and calls by the government for people to register for shots. It took a populist Shiite cleric’s public endorsemen­t of vaccinatio­ns — and images of him getting the shot last week — to turn things around. Hundreds of followers of Muqtada alSadr are now heading to clinics to follow his example, underscori­ng the power of sectarian loyalties. Iraq has grappled with a severe second wave as new cases spiked to over 8,000 per day last month, the highest they have ever been. The surge was driven largely by flouting virusrelat­ed restrictio­ns, refusing to wear face masks and continuing to hold large public gatherings.

 ?? Hadi Mizban / Associated Press ?? A follower of populist Shiite cleric Muqtada alSadr holds a picture of him while receiving the Chinese vaccine at a clinic in Baghdad. Hundreds of alSadr’s followers are heading to clinics after he got the shot.
Hadi Mizban / Associated Press A follower of populist Shiite cleric Muqtada alSadr holds a picture of him while receiving the Chinese vaccine at a clinic in Baghdad. Hundreds of alSadr’s followers are heading to clinics after he got the shot.

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