By Pouyan Khoshhal
December 15, 2020
Stringent lockdowns have now been in place in Iran for 23 days. In that time, the number of recorded daily fatalities from Covid-19 has fallen from close to 500 to fewer than 300. The number of confirmed cases has also dropped from upwards of 13,000 a day to below 8,000 per day.
Iranians traditionally celebrate Yalda, the night of the winter solstice and the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, by getting together with the family and close friends. This year Yalda falls on December 21 and the National Coronavirus Taskforce has announced that on that day the nighttime traffic curfew will be extended to discourage people from attending gatherings. Businesses will be closed from 6pm in all cities in Iran, regardless of the alert level.
Elsewhere, however, the prospect of a Covid-19 vaccine continues to dominate the headlines. As yet no decision has been made about buying and importing doses of the vaccine from other countries. This seems to have been further pushed back by an announcement from Mostafa Ghanei, chairman of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s scientific committee.
“Iran lacks the necessary means to transport the American Pfizer vaccine and we have announced that Iran does not want this vaccine,” said Ghanei on December 13. “We have told the global Covax initiative that we do not want this vaccine because it must be kept at 70 degrees below zero and we have no facilities for doing this.”
COVAX is a global initiative launched by the World Health Organization aiming to work with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine.
Earlier Abdolnaser Hemmati, governor of Iran’s Central Bank, had also said that as a result of US sanctions, Iran would not be able to buy and import the vaccine through COVAX initiative. Afterwards, however, a spokesman for COVAX told the Washington Post that the US Treasury had given permission for Iran to make the down-payment for the vaccine. There are, at least, no legal obstacles.
An Iranian Vaccine by Spring?
“Despite claims by those people who say were are not able to this, we are going to make this vaccine and we will offer this Iranian vaccine to the people in the spring of 2021,” said health minister Saeed Namaki.
He went on to claim that the recent drop in the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities had proved wrong those naysayers who predicted that recorded fatalities would soon reach 1,200 per day. He also dismissed the various, conflicting comments and predictions about an Iranian vaccine in recent weeks, and said: “These days many people like to talk too much. I have no idea why some people find a microphone so attractive because there is no reason to say things all the time.”
Namaki also denied that “dubious” vaccines from other countries had been or would be tested on patients in Iran. “We will not allow Iranian people to be used as lab mice,” he said.