Tunisia launches vaccine ‘open day’ against Delta variant-driven spike

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Tunisia on Sunday launched a COVID-19 vaccination drive for the over-40s, after receiving more than six million doses from abroad to combat surging infections.

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More than 300 centers across the country held an “open day” for vaccinations, drawing large crowds, AFP correspondents said.

Tunisia, in the thick of political and economic crises, has received more than six million doses from Western and Arab countries, and the same number of additional vaccines are on the way, President Kais Saied said Thursday.

Saied, who last month dismissed the government -- in part due to its alleged bungling of the COVID crisis -- and suspended parliament, has announced the establishment of a coronavirus crisis unit supervised by a high-level military official.

Tunisian authorities now aim to have vaccinated 50 percent of the country’s 12-million population with a first jab by mid-October.

A first “open day” of inoculations held in July was abandoned when the vaccination centers were overwhelmed by high demand and lack of organization.

The World Health Organization said last week that Tunisia, which has the world’s worst officially declared COVID-19 death toll, may be over the peak of the latest wave but the government must still speed up inoculations.

“The epidemiological data are going in the right direction,” the WHO representative in Tunisia, Yves Souteyrand, told a press conference.

The Delta variant is responsible for “more than 90 percent” of cases in Tunisia, which on Sunday registered 2,546 new cases, raising infections to a total of 610,660 with almost 21,000 deaths.

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