These days, governments across the globe are doing their best to accelerate the vaccination pace against the deadly coronavirus. They could take significant steps to eradicate this ominous disease by decreasing the death rate. However, Iranian officials completely drive the country in the opposite direction.
Officials in Iran do not show any hurry in vaccinating the population. Instead, high-ranking authorities, including the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, had deprived society of reliable Covid-19 vaccines.
“The import of American and British Covid-19 vaccines is forbidden,” said Khamenei on January 8. “I have said this [point] to officials, and now, I am saying it publicly.”
On the other hand, the officials justify their imprudence in procuring coronavirus vaccines by questioning their efficiency. “The side-effects of the vaccines are not truly clear for us, and which vaccine is more effective and until when they are effective,” said Rouhani on February 27. “Some people across the globe are even afraid of injecting the vaccine!”
Furthermore, in the best-case scenario, mass vaccination in Iran would start six or seven months from now. “Mass production of this vaccine needs certain infrastructure, and the Covid-19 vaccine in Iran will begin mass production in July or August of 2021,” the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Yahya Ebrahimi, a member of the Parliament (Majlis) Health Commission, as saying on December 29, 2020.
Iranian Officials Test Cuban Vaccines on Impoverished People
“Cuba said late on Friday it had signed an accord with Iran to transfer the technology for its most advanced coronavirus vaccine candidate and carry out last-stage clinical trials of the shot in the Islamic Republic,” Reuters reported on January 9.
Also, the former Health Ministry Spokesperson Kianush Jahanpour, who is currently the head of the Food and Drug Organization, acknowledged that 50,000 volunteers would be recruited to carry out the Phase III clinical trials. “Technology transfer and joint production were preconditions for allowing human testing in the country,” Jahanpour said.
Officials immediately denied the news about the last-stage clinical trials of Cuban Covid-19 vaccines. However, their secrecy and contradictory claims and bragging prompted observers to scrutinize the issue.
On March 24, the state-run TV reported that the government vaccinated 1,000 sweepers of Shiraz Municipality in Fars province. A day later, the TV acknowledged the vaccination of sweepers in Mashhad in the northeastern Iranian province of Razavi Khorasan. “Today, the second phase of vaccination of this group was started,” the TV reported on March 25.
However, the state-run media did not specify when these impoverished people received their first shot of vaccine and why the government had not announced the first phase. Meanwhile, the Iranian government refuses to pay municipal workers’ salaries and even insurance rights. Therefore, it is too odd that the government had vaccinated low-income workers for free.
The news about injecting experimental vaccines into sweepers prompted Iranian citizens’ anger. Particularly, the netizens severely slammed the government for putting impoverished people at risk. Following the eruption of public ire against the government’s bleak decisions, Jahanpour attended the state-run TV on March 26, denying the injection of Cuban vaccines into sweepers. “The trial of the Iranian-Cuban coronavirus vaccine has yet to start,” he added.
Jahanpour’s claims were contrary to remarks raised by Ali Reza Biglari, the head of the Pasteur institution. As the Cuban Vaccine custodian in Iran, Biglari had provided a report around two months ago. “In primary days, we could perform around 2,000 to 3,000 [experimental] tests per day. However, our capacity was immediately grown, and today, we perform around 50,000 tests every day. We can reach a higher number if the country needs it,” Biglari said in an interview with ISNA on February 3.
Iranian officials exploit the health crisis as a means to ensure their survival in power, dissidents say, reckoning that “Iran is not in another world, and it is impossible that the world achieves significant successions and decreases the death rate while the coronavirus victims in Iran are on the rise.” Notably, Khamenei had described the coronavirus as a ‘blessing’ on March 4, 2020. Today’s developments prove why he described it as such.