Students of Sinjar seek Covid vaccine

Nineveh, November 2021: A student in Sinjar undergoes an examination to detect corona infection. Sinjar District Health Media

By Ammar Aziz in Ninewa

Students in Sinjar (Shingal) district complain about their inability to obtain the Pfizer-BionTech vaccines, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Health to vaccinate students over 12-years-old which exposes these students to the risk of Covid-19 infectionand closureof class teaching.

According to the decisions of the Iraqi federal government, all students and teaching staff must take the vaccination or take tests to detect corona on a weekly basis, in order to allow them to attend schools.

In the latest step, the Iraqi Ministry of Health decided, based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization WHO to grant the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine to over 12 years old pupils coinciding with the start of the new school year on November 1st2021.

“I would like to receive the vaccine, but Pfizer vaccines are not available in Shingal, and for other vaccines, we have to wait for more than two weeks after registering our names electronically,” said Omid Ibrahim, 18-years-old student of grade12 in Kurdistan Preparatory School in Shingal district.

Ibrahim told KirkukNow that less than 10 students in her school have received the vaccine which is a small percentage at a time when the risks of Corona are exacerbating.

Shingal, located 120 west of Mosul, center of Nineveh province, on the border of Iraq-Syria, is home to the Ezidi religious community considered infidels by the extremist militants of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS.

A report by KirkukNow end of October found out that over 60 projects of renovation have been halted by the government in the war-ravaged Shingal due to the tense relations between the federal Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG, including the poor healthcare sector.

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Nineveh, 2019: Classroom for twelfth grade students at Sarkawtin Preparatory School. KirkukNow

The Ministry of Health warned in an official letter issued on November 7thagainst the start of the fourth wave of the Corona epidemic due to the low percentage of vaccinated people.

Dilshad Ali, Director General of Shingal Hospital said the Pfizer vaccine, which is in high demand among citizens, has run out long time ago in Shingal district so they have asked Ninewa administration and the federal government to provide more yet he could not determine the date of delivery of vaccine doses to Shingal.

In addition to the Pfizer vaccine, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines are available in Iraq but the demand for Pfizer-type vaccines is higher according to Ministry of Health statistics.

Ali says that nearly 4,000 people have received vaccines against Covid in Shingal, home to more than 330,000 people; most of them are Internally Displaced People IDPs, while the number of people infected with corona especially among students is soaring up and the only available corona vaccine currently is AstraZenica, and students can visit vaccination centers to receive the vaccine.

 According to health statistics, about 510,000 people have received the Corona vaccine throughout Ninewa province until November 13th while the number of people infected with Covid passed 70,000 cases, yet only 902 deaths recorded.

We do not know whether to focus on studying or thinking about the risks of infection with corona and how to get the vaccine

"I have not been able to receive the vaccine yet because the Pfizer vaccine is not available, and now we do not know whether to focus on studying or thinking about the risks of infection with corona and how to obtain the vaccine," said Zainal Saado, student of grade 12 of JigarKhwen High School of Shingal.

"It's hard for us to register only then in the queues to receive the other types of Corona vaccine."

Saado proposed allocating several days to give the vaccine to the twelfth grade students, "otherwise we will catch corona and will lose the entire school year as well."

The impoverished community whom still half back home and the rest prefer life under tents in the camps of Duhok province in the adjacent Kurdish region; lead a severe life amid absence of basic public services.

The war against IS left the province of Ninewa in general and the cities of Mosul and Shingal sunk in debris. Millions of tons of debris require billions of Dollars to collect and rebuild the devastated region.

The General Directorate of Ninawa Education decided students to attned schools for class teaching from Sunday to Thursday of every week in districts, sub-districts and villages where internet services are not available while the war-ravaged Shingal is still suffering from the effects of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant ISIL and the absence of rehabilitation in most of its public service sectors.

Kamal Hassan Khodida, principal of Sarkawtin secondary school in Borik complex of Shingal district, said less than 9 students out of 171 students school received the vaccine, due to the lack of the Pfizer vaccine, and for other types of vaccine the student must register and wait in long queues and "it is not guaranteed that he will receive the vaccine on the same day, so the students do not know whether they are waiting in queues to receive the vaccine or to focus on their work.”

Hassan says the school does not force students to receive the vaccine, "but sometimes the number of students who take sick leave reaches 10 students per day andwe do not know whether they are infected with Corona or if they have seasonal flu."

He believes that this problem exists only in Shingal and that citizens in other areas can easily obtain the vaccine.

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Ninewa, November 2021: A number of citizens waiting for their turn to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at a vaccination outlet. Shingal Health Media

In Shingal district, there are two directorates of education (the Kurdish study department and the Arabic study department), which together have 54,000 male and female students, a large part of whom are still residing in the IDPs camps of adjacent Kurdistan Region.

Maysar Haji, director of Shingal Kurdish Education funded by the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG, says that 30,000 students attend the Kurdish Study Department, and 13,000 of them are in Shingal.

"So far, 300 students have been infected with Corona so we considered closing schools, but we are waiting for the instructions of the Ministry of Health of KRG and the federal government before taking the final decision,” Haji said.

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