Fact Checking

Fact Check: Zarif's Big Lie About Vaccinations in the West

April 7, 2021
7 min read
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused foreign countries of “hoarding” vaccines
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused foreign countries of “hoarding” vaccines
Pinocchio lie: Statements that have already been proven to be false or are based on existing research and evidence that are false, or in other words, a blatant lie
Pinocchio lie: Statements that have already been proven to be false or are based on existing research and evidence that are false, or in other words, a blatant lie

"Foreign countries have hoarded three times the amount of coronavirus vaccines than they need," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has claimed.

Zarif made his announcement at the end of a conference analyzing the coronavirus crisis in Iran that took place on Monday, March 15, 2021. He went on to express bafflement about why the West was taking such measures and a desire for such practices to be prevented."Why has the West hoarded the vaccine three times the amount they need? Justice is important in distributing vaccines and creating equal opportunities for rich and poor countries. Can those who prevent us from transferring money to buy vaccines say that they have learned a lesson of humanity, humility and tolerance from the coronavirus outbreak?"

So have Western countries hoarded coronavirus vaccines in volumes three times beyond what they need? IranWire seeks to answer this question, referring to and citing international reports.

Vaccination Trends Worldwide

So far, at least 15 coronavirus vaccines have been licensed in various countries around the world, and vaccination operations have been launched to combat the spread of coronavirus in most countries of the world. Naturally, developed countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, which have played a major role in the production of vaccines, are also leading the way in vaccination operations. But have these countries and other Western countries "hoarded" the vaccines?

In a report published in March 2021 and last updated on March 9 regarding the sale and distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide, the Bloomberg news and business analysis site provides pre-purchase statistics for each vaccine produced by countries around the world, presenting the data through interactive maps. These statistics broadly confirm the claim that the United States, Canada and several European countries have generally ordered and "pre-purchased" vaccines numbering between two to three times their population from the various vaccine-producing companies.

Bloomberg has presented a table showing the percentage of the population that has been covered by the vaccine in countries that pre-purchased it:

Bloomberg also presented an interactive table showing how many doses of vaccine companies have pre-sold to various countries:

The map below also shows how many vaccines each country had purchased by early March. It shows that Canada has pre-purchased three times as much as is needed, and countries marked in bright yellow have pre-purchased and reserved vaccines covering less than 5 percent of their population. Iran, African countries and many Asian countries fall within this category.

Reports from the two vaccine-producing companies Moderna and Pfizer on the pre-sale of Covid-19 vaccines also shows that the total number of the vaccine pre-purchased by Western countries is more than the population of these countries. In a report on the company's performance in the last three months of 2020, Moderna announced the following:

— The US has pre-purchased 300 million doses of the vaccine, plus the possibility of increasing another 200 million doses;

— The EU has purchased 310 million, plus the possibility of increasing another 150 million doses;

— Japan has pre-purchased 50 million doses;

— Canada purchased 44 million doses;

— South Korea purchased 40 million doses;

— the United Kingdom purchased 17 million doses;

— Switzerland purchased 13.5 million doses;

— Colombia purchased 10 million doses;

— Israel purchased 6 million doses and

— Taiwan purchased 5 million doses

Crucially, the company is committed to delivering these doses purchasing countries throughout 2021 and 2022.

According to Bloomberg, Pfizer has also pre-sold 300 million doses to the European Union and 200 million doses to the United States, which should be delivered in 2021; the company predicts that by the end of the year it will be able to deliver 836 million doses of vaccine to buyer countries. That means it will deliver 500 million doses to EU member states and the US and 336 million doses of vaccine to the rest of the world.

At this point, it is important to pay attention to two key facts:

1- The delivery time of these vaccines is set for 2021 and 2022, which means that these countries have pre-purchased the vaccine for use in 2022, predicting that they may need the vaccine in that year as well as 2021.

2. Vaccines pre-purchased by Western countries are not made by one company, but from several companies, so are likely (or have the potential to be) in accordance with the precautionary measures that set out if a company does not fulfill its obligation or the ineffectiveness of a vaccine is doubted, these countries do not deprive themselves of the required dose of vaccine.

Trends in Vaccination Operations in Western Countries

Contrary to Mohammad Javad Zarif's claims, European governments have not hoarded the vaccine. In reality, they have been criticized for not having enough access to vaccines to speed up vaccination operations.

The Guardian predicts that vaccination operations in European countries will continue until October 2021, based on the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, which indicates that European countries do not have enough vaccine to vaccinate even 75 percent of their population faster.

The vaccination trend shows that European countries are moving slower than the world average when it comes to vaccinating their citizens. The process of vaccination in different countries of the world, according to information available as of March 20, 2021, is that Israel has vaccinated all its citizens and the United Arab Emirates has inoculated 72 percent of its citizens, Chile 44 percent, the United Kingdom 42 percent and the United States 36 percent of their populations. Other Western countries feature nowhere in the upper rows of this chart; their situation is even lower than the global average of 5.6 percent.


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed: "Western countries have hoarded the coronavirus vaccine three times in excess of their needs." But IranWire’s reviews of available information shows: 

1. Western countries have "pre-purchased" up to three times their required coronavirus vaccine doses from various companies, which may be due to precautionary measures (a company not fulfilling its commitment or invalidation of a company's vaccine in the future).

2- The deadline for delivery of pre-purchased vaccines by Western countries is 2021 and 2022.

3. Many Western governments have been slow to vaccinate their population because of not having access to the coronavirus vaccine and have been criticized for it.

4. Except for two countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, which are in the top five countries in the world with the highest percentage of injectable vaccines in proportion to their population, other Western countries have not vaccinated their citizens, even at the global average of 5.6 percent, which indicates that they do not have access to adequate vaccines.

IranWire therefore believes that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is fluent in English and is able to read sources in their original language, deliberately used the word “hoarding" — which has a criminal connotation in Iran —  instead of the word "pre-purchase," which could be considered to be a sign of Western governments’ responsibilities towards their citizens. He has used this expression to distort the real facts. Therefore, IranWire considers Mohammad Javad Zarif's claim that "Western countries have hoarded the coronavirus vaccine three times beyond their need" to be deceptive and has classified it as a "Pinocchio lie."

Pinocchio's lie: Statements that have already been proven to be false or which are based on existing research and evidence that are false. In other words, this is a blatant lie. 

You can find out more about our fact-checking methodology here.

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Fact Check: Zarif's Big Lie About Vaccinations in the West