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Special Features

Dispute Over Russian Vaccine Flares Up Between Officials

January 31, 2021
Pouyan Khoshhal
6 min read
Dr. Minoo Mohraz has called the decision to import the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine a “misfortune” for the Iranian people.
Dr. Minoo Mohraz has called the decision to import the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine a “misfortune” for the Iranian people.
“Can anybody believe that this country’s health minister is so dishonorable that he would allow an undesirable vaccine to enter this country?” asked Health Minister Saeed Namaki.
“Can anybody believe that this country’s health minister is so dishonorable that he would allow an undesirable vaccine to enter this country?” asked Health Minister Saeed Namaki.

Iran’s health minister has accused the objectors to importing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine of “malign motives”, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration accused them of “confusing the public,” and the spokesman for the agency said attacks against the Russian vaccine are an “organized campaign.” But their efforts in convincing the public fell short when the Iran Medical Council’s head of public relations announced that the council does not consider the Russian vaccine reliable because it has not been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) or a reputable international health authority.

Nevertheless, Iran's ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, said Tehran expects to receive the first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine by February 4. Two more batches are to be delivered by February 18 and 28, he added, without specifying quantities. Sputnik V is the first foreign vaccine that is scheduled to arrive in Iran.

Government Defends Sputnik

Health Minister Saeed Namaki responded to “doubts” about the Russian vaccine. He said it had completed three phases of clinical trials and received emergency approval in Russia and several other countries. “We have identified five sources of vaccine,” he said. “Until now I had not named any brand, but today I am identifying them so people can hear the true and scientific facts from the health minister. We are in the process of registering [vaccines made by] AstraZeneca, two companies in India, one company in China and one in Russia.”

“Can anybody believe that this country’s health minister is so dishonorable that he would allow an undesirable vaccine to enter this country?” Namaki asked. “How can we stab our soldiers in the back this way?” He said the WHO has not given its final approval to any vaccine in the world because it usually takes five years for phase 4 of the clinical trials of a vaccine to be completed and no vaccine has completed this phase.

In the past few days Dr. Minoo Mohraz, a ranking member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, Hossein Ali Shahriari, chairman of the parliament’s Health Committee, and Bahram Parsaei, a former member of parliament, have said the Russian vaccine must not be used because it is not reliable and is not an approved vaccine. Dr. Mohraz went so far as to say that the decision to "provide and import the Russian vaccine by our government is a misfortune for our people.”

In an indirect response to Dr. Mohraz, head of the Food and Drug Administration Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz said, “some people express views about things that are not within the sphere of their profession... We do not intend to import a vaccine that is not being used in the country of origin.” He added that Sputnik V has been approved by 15 countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Hungary.

Shanehsaz said the Food and Drug Administration has the last word on the vaccine, adding that “some inexpert people from other fields comment on vaccines and confuse the public.” Without naming names he called the objectors to importing the Russian vaccine “uninformed” and “biased”.

Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration, said objections to the Russian vaccine are an organized campaign to turn public opinion against it. He noted that Russia has manufactured more than three million doses of Sputnik V and it has been used to vaccinate more than one million Russians. Jahanpour added that Sputnik V is one of the 10 vaccines that has been approved for distribution by COVAX, an initiative by the WHO to provide more equitable access to coronavirus vaccines to countries around the world.

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures from the Health Ministry, currently 18 cities in Iran are in an orange state of alert, 123 cities are on yellow alert and 307 are blue, i.e., the lowest state of alert but not completely free of coronavirus.

Of the 18 cities on orange alert 10 are in Mazandaran province, according to Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari. “Despite the fact that last week the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations and fatalities in Mazandaran was on a downward trend compared to a week before, these numbers have been considerably higher than the national average and the situation of the pandemic in most cities of this province is unstable and fragile,” she said. “Unfortunately, according to studies, Mazandaran is one of the provinces with the lowest compliance with health protocols.”

In the past 24 hours 159 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in treatment centers run by Mazandaran and Babol universities of medical sciences, bringing the current number of hospitalizations in the province to 1,286.

In Kurdistan, with the addition of 30 new Covid-19 patients, the total number of hospitalizations in the province reached 127, of whom 71 were in the provincial capital of Sanandaj, according to Dr. Farzin Rezaei, president of Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences. Currently 34 Covid-19 patients are being treated in intensive care units and, with the death of another confirmed coronavirus patient, the official death toll in the Kurdistan now stands at 1,060.

In Alborz four confirmed Covid-19 patients died and the death toll in the province since the start of the coronavirus outbreak reached 2,667, according to Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. With the hospitalization of 47 new Covid-19 patients in the past 24 hours, the total number of hospitalization in Alborz now stands at 290. As of now, according to Dr. Fathi, 30,286 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in the province and 27,327 have been released from treatment centers after recovery.

In Ardebil three more Covid-19 patients died and 26 new patients were hospitalized, according to Dr. Shahram Habibzadeh, president of Ardebil University of Medical Sciences. Currently 195 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the province and of this number 58 are in ICUs.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began in Lorestan 184,000 coronavirus tests have been performed and more than 63,000 were positive, according to Maryam Kooshki, vice president of Lorestan University of Medical Sciences. A total of 1,324 patients in Lorestan have lost their lives to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Amin Ghasemi, head of Lorestan’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism, said that since the outbreak of coronavirus the tourism industry in the province has lost approximately 215 billion tomans - close to $53 million - and the number of visitors to the province has fallen by 60 percent.

With the hospitalization of 29 new Covid-19 patients the total number of hospitalized patients in Qazvin reached 183, of whom 25 are on ventilators, according to Qazvin University of Medical Sciences. With the death of two more Covid-19 patients the coronavirus death toll in the province reached 1,271. A total of 17,028 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in Qazvin.

In the past seven days there were no new Covid-19 fatalities in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, but the number of coronavirus cases increased, according to Dr. Parviz Yazdanpanah, president of Yasuj University of Medical Sciences. Currently 99 suspected and confirmed cases are hospitalized across the province, eight of them in ICUs.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 31, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Dispute Over Russian Vaccine Flares Up Between Officials

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