Small bottles labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. (Reuters)

By Pouyan Khoshhal

January 14, 2021

Since the Supreme Leader banned the future importation of UK- and US-made Covid-19 vaccines, the Iranian government has focused instead on the prospects for domestically-manufactured products, including a would-be vaccine jointly developed with Cuba.

Dr. Alireza Biglari, head of Iran’s Pasteur Institute, said on January 13 that according to the Health Ministry, this co-produced vaccine had seen “no complications” during Phase I and Phase II of clinical trials. He repeated that Phase III will be conducted simultaneously in Iran and Cuba.

Biglari went on to say Cuba has “a very advanced vaccine-making industry” and that it had previously provided Iran with technology to produce a hepatitis B vaccine. According to him, Cuba and Iran’s Pasteur Institute began their collaboration in 2019, beginning with a joint project to develop a vaccine against a certain type of pneumonia.

No information is yet available on how phase III of the Covid-19 vaccine trial will be carried out in Iran, or how many volunteers are being sought. And although officials promise that widespread vaccination in Iran will begin “on time”, there has as yet been no qualification of what this means.

At a cabinet meeting on January 13, President Rouhani simultaneously tried to assure those present and the wider public that Iran is financially capable of procuring Covid-19 vaccines from other countries too. Iran’s Central Bank, he claimed, has the access to foreign currencies that it needs to buy from abroad and “no effort is being spared to start general vaccination according to a specific schedule.” This specific schedule was, again, not specified.

Meanwhile, health minister Saeed Namaki has reported that daily official totals of new Covid-19 infections and fatalities are again on the increase. He added that a fifth case of the more contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant first been detected in England had now been identified in Iran.

Provinces Round-up

Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations have been rising in Mazandaran. According to Namaki, in the past 24 hours before January 13 some 21 people died of Covid-19 in this province. In the same period, 237 people with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized under the supervision of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences while 27 patients who had partially recovered were released to quarantine at home, reported Dr. Abbas Mousavi, president of the university.

Currently, he added, 1,198 patients suffering from Covid-19 are being cared for at its treatment centers, 42 of whom are in intensive care units. Separately, Mazandaran’s Babol University of Medical Sciences is currently treating 220 Covid-19 patients,  42 of whom are also in ICUs.

According to Saeed Namaki, tests conducted by the Health Ministry suggest the new mutated form of the virus is not behind the surge of infections in Mazandaran. Instead, he said, the arrival of seasonal citrus fruit pickers from Golestan province is thought to have exacerbated infection rates.

In the neighboring province of Gilan three cities are in an “orange” state of alert and if infections in this province continue, to rise the alert level of these cities might be elevated to red on Saturday when the National Coronavirus Taskforce convenes.  In the past 24 hours, 78 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Gilan, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 458, reported Dr. Masoud Norouzi, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences. According to this university, around 50 percent of new infections are the result of family gatherings.

Pointing out that the World Health Organization has now confirmed a direct connection between air pollution and coronavirus infections, Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, said that in the current situation shutting down Tehran for a few days would be advisable – as long as people do not use the opportunity to travel. “Those who suffer from allergic respiratory diseases and asthma are adversely affected by air pollution,” he added.

With the admittance to hospital of 49 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms in Alborz, the number of hospitalizations in the province now stands at 303. In the past 24 hours two more Covid-19 patients died and the official death toll in the province rose to 2,620.

In West Azerbaijan, 363 suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients are currently in hospital 130 in ICUs of whom 34 are on ventilators. In the past 24 hours, another 200 people in the province tested positive for coronavirus.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 13, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Iran Wire

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.