San Francisco Chronicle
Cleric helps boost rollout
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.