Special Features

More Contradictory Statements Muddy the Waters on Iran's Vaccine Plans

December 23, 2020
Pouyan Khoshhal
6 min read
Dr. Minoo Moharez, the lead epidemiologist in the development of an Iranian vaccine, had said that human testing of the vaccine would start within a week with 56 volunteers
Dr. Minoo Moharez, the lead epidemiologist in the development of an Iranian vaccine, had said that human testing of the vaccine would start within a week with 56 volunteers
Various Islamic Republic officials continue to claim that US sanctions are preventing Iran from buying Covid-19 vaccine from other countries, even though these sanctions do not apply to medicine
Various Islamic Republic officials continue to claim that US sanctions are preventing Iran from buying Covid-19 vaccine from other countries, even though these sanctions do not apply to medicine
The officially-recorded number of coronavirus fatalities in Iran has passed 54 thousand
The officially-recorded number of coronavirus fatalities in Iran has passed 54 thousand

On Tuesday, December 22, Iranian media outlets published multiple reports about the start of clinical trials for an Iranian-made coronavirus vaccine. But just a few hours later Mohammad Mokhabber, president of the Executive Headquarters of Imam's Directive, qualified these reports by saying participants in the trials have yet to be selected. “As of today, individuals who are willing to take part in the final testing phase of the Iranian coronavirus vaccine can register,” he announced. He claimed that already many have requested to participate in the clinical testing of the vaccine.

His statements are at odds with those of 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, who had said on Monday, December 21 that the human testing phase of an Iranian vaccine would start next week with 56 volunteers.

It had been promised that the mass production of an Iranian province would start by next summer. But recently more than one health official has said Iran will be unable to mass-produce its own vaccine even if it successfully develops one.

On Monday, December 21, Dr. Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, the president of Iran’s Medical Council, said: “It must be noted that development of a vaccine is different from its mass production. Manufacturing at scale needs [equipment and infrastructure] that, at this moment our country does not have.” He added that currency restrictions make it impossible to buy the resources Iran would need expeditiously. A day later Mostafa Ghanei, chairman of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, echoed Dr. Zafarghandi and again accused the US of preventing Iran from importing the necessary equipment for the development and the production of a vaccine.

 

The Mutation of Coronavirus Might have Reached Iran

Last week, after the UK announced that a new variant of coronavirus has been detected in its borders, some European countries closed their borders with Britain. “I believe that it is possible that the surge in the number of fatalities in Iran in recent months was due this mutated virus,” said Dr. Minoo Moharez. But she added: “Of course, what is certain is that the mutated English virus has no effect on the severity of the disease and it mostly infects people faster.” Therefore, she said, existing vaccines will continue to work on this variant of the vaccine as well. In mid-summer Dr. Moharez had claimed that a coronavirus had already mutated in Iran.

 

Buying American vaccines is not a priority

Social media platforms are crammed with posts from people calling on on Iranian officials to buy and import foreign-made coronavirus vaccines. Health officials have not only not kept the public informed of efforts so far, but they have expressed their reluctance to buy from other countries.

Buying American-made vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna is not a priority for Iran for the moment, declared Mostafa Ghanei, chairman of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee. He said the Islamic Republic would decide to buy the vaccine based on its own “infrastructures” and “facilities”, and on the price and the country from which the vaccine originates. The decision, he said, will be made by Iran’s Food and Drug Administration.

In a tweet, Kianoush Jahanpour, head of the public relations for the health ministry and a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration, ridiculed a hashtag some Iranian social media users have used extensively in recent days, #Buy_the_Vaccine. “After the sanctions on medicines, the sanctions on the IMF loan, the sanctions on masks, the sanctions on protective gear, the sanctions on PCR test kits and the sanctions on coronavirus rapid test kits, now the keyword for their deception operation is ‘Buy_the_Vaccine,’” he tweeted. “Thanks a lot! Glad you mentioned it!”

Mostafa Ghanei of the National Coronavirus Taskforce also accused the US of sabotaging Iranian efforts to acquire vaccines. “Were it not for this sabotage we could have imported some vaccine on an emergency basis for vaccinating high-risk groups,” he said.

On Tuesday, December 22, Dr. Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, president of the Iranian Medical Council, sent a letter to the general director of the World Health Organization, telling him that the Council, “as the greatest medical NGO in Iran, is seriously determined to overcome illegitimate US sanctions by providing our people with adequate Covid-19 vaccines” and asking him to do his best to “help us do the job asap”.

Despite all these claims that the US is preventing Iran from purchasing coronavirus vaccine, on December 10 Nasser Riahi, president of the Iranian Association of Drug Importers, had confirmed that “American sanctions do not apply to the purchase of coronavirus vaccine and Iran is not facing any problems in this regard.”

 

Provinces Round-up

Currently 3,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in Tehran, reported Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, who called this number “considerable”. The situation in Tehran, he said, is “fragile and unstable... Tehran is still in an orange state of alert. Some of the restrictions that were imposed two months ago were enacted this week as well... The extension of these restrictions depends on the epidemiological situation in Tehran.”

In Gilan province 10 cities are in an orange state of alert, reported Mahmoud Ghasemnejad, the deputy director of Gilan Coronavirus Taskforce. Gilan was one of the last provinces that downgraded from a red state of alert to orange. Ghasemnejad added: “Leaving the red state of alert does not mean that traffic restrictions in orange and yellow cities have been lifted. The ban on the traffic of private cars between yellow and orange cities is still in place unless the car has a permit from the governor’s office.”

In the past 24 hours nine Covid-19 patients died in Kerman, bringing the official death toll in the province to 2,269. During the same time period 45 new patients who had tested positive were admitted to the hospitals and currently 285 confirmed Covid-19 cases are hospitalized across the province.

In Kurdistan in the past 24 hours four more Covid-19 patients have died and the official death toll in the province now stands at 1,019. At the same time, 55 new patients were hospitalized and now the total number of coronavirus hospitalizations in the province stands at 172. The largest number of hospitalizations, 92, belongs to the provincial capital of Sanandaj.

In the past 24 hours in the province of Kermanshah the number of patients who were discharged from hospitals after recovery, 55, exceeded the number of new hospitalizations which was 52, reported Kermanshah Coronavirus Taskforce. The number of current hospitalizations in the province has now fallen to 228. With the death of three more confirmed cases the official coronavirus death toll in the province has now reached 1,413.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for December 22, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

More Contradictory Statements Muddy the Waters on Iran's Vaccine Plans

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.

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