Yalda, the longest night in the northern hemisphere, when Iranians gather with friends and family to celebrate “the rebirth of the sun,” has now passed. Special restrictions and curfews were announced earlier to prevent the gatherings – which were bound to spread the virus – but many people and businesses ignored these restrictions. The consequences of so much mixing will become clear within a couple of weeks. But according to Iranian health officials, 51 percent of coronavirus infections are the result of family get-togethers.
In the meantime, many Iranians took to social media to demand that the government provide Iranians with vaccines without delay.
Don’t Shut Out the Private Sector
As many countries in the world have started vaccinating their citizens, the demand for a vaccine has become widespread among the public in Iran. By using the hashtag “Buy the Vaccine,” many Iranians have called for the government to acquire the vaccine as fast as possible. This hashtag was tweeted more than 74,000 time as of noon on Monday, December 21, which shows the state of the public mind regarding the vaccine.
It has been two weeks since Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued the order to import the vaccine. But nothing tangible has yet been achieved and Iranian officials only talk of “pursuing the purchase of the vaccine through reliable channels.”
“These days, our most important topic of discussion is the purchase of the vaccine,” said Dr. Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, director-general of Iran’s Medical Council. “Our primary argument is that securing the vaccine for the people is a vital and indisputable necessity and the vaccine must be secured on a vast scale in a specific and tight timeframe.” He says that Iran’s minimum need is 50 million doses of vaccine within three months – even though this would cover only 25 million people because each person must receive two doses within a month.
Dr. Lari reported that currently no Iranian city is on the red alert, 205 cities are in an orange state of alert and 243 are yellow.
Dr. Zafarghandi believes that the government cannot secure and distribute the vaccine alone and needs the private sector as well because, in certain areas, the private sector faces fewer limitations.
Iranian officials have also repeatedly said that they face severe difficulties in currency transactions because of American sanctions.
The Iranian Vaccine: No Capacity for Mass Production
Currently, said Dr. Zafarghandi, seven development lines are working on a domestic Iranian vaccine. Some are developing a vaccine based on an attenuated version of the virus while at least two are based on an mRNA (Messenger RNA) technique. According to him, one vaccine has reached clinical trials on humans and one or two others are expected to reach this phase in a month.
The human testing phase of an Iranian vaccine will start a week from now, with 56 volunteers, announced Dr. Minoo Moharez, the lead epidemiologist in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine in Iran and a member of National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee. She assured the public that there is no shortage of volunteers.
According to Dr. Moharez, in the first phase of human testing the volunteers will be injected with the vaccine twice, two weeks apart. The volunteers are rewarded and are covered by insurance; if complications arise, they would receive compensation.
Nevertheless, even if human trials are successful, Iran will have difficulty with mass production. “It must be noted that development of a vaccine is different from mass production,” says Dr. Zafarghandi. “Mass production needs [equipment and infrastructure] that, at this moment, our country does not have,” and currency restrictions makes it impossible to buy them expeditiously. Dr. Zafarghandi added that “we cannot wait for this and must give priority to importing the vaccine.”
In the past 24 hours, 81 new Covid-19 cases were identified in Kurdistan and the number of hospitalizations in this province now stands at 185, reported Dr. Farzin Ziaei, president of Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences. With the death of one coronavirus patient, the death toll in the province from the pandemic reached 1,015 people.
Bushehr passed the day without a single Covid-19 fatality. In the past 24 hours, 10 new patients were hospitalized in the province and currently 63 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in Bushehr, reported Saeed Kashmiri, secretary of Bushehr Coronavirus taskforce. “Fortunately, in the past 24 hours, 20 patients, nine of whom had tested positive, were released from hospitals after recovery,” he said.
In the past 24 hours, the number of hospitalizations in Ardebil fell below 300 after 45 new Covid-19 patients were admitted to the hospitals and 52 were released. According to Dr. Shahram Habibzadeh, president of Ardebil University of Medical Sciences, currently 299 patients are hospitalized across the province, 74 of them in ICUs.
With the death of four more Covid-19 patients in the past 24 hours, the death toll in Alborz since the coronavirus outbreak reached 2,512 people. During the same period, 38 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized and currently 429 confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus are being treated at hospitals in the province, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences.
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for December 21, health ministry’s spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:
This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology