By Pouyan Khoshhal
February 11, 2021
On the morning of Tuesday, February 9, Iran started coronavirus vaccinations with the inoculation of frontline medical personnel and health workers in 635 state and private clinics and hospitals across the country.
The first to be vaccinated, however, was not a health professional at all but Parsa Namaki, the son of Health Minister Saeed Namaki, who declared as justification: “My son was vaccinated to show that our blood is not redder than others’.”
The move was praised by President Hassan Rouhani, who for his part said: “I told my colleagues that I was ready to be among the first to be vaccinated.” He also railed against “foreign media and foreigners” for criticizing the Islamic Republic because it had not started vaccinations earlier.
Dr. Ghasem Jan-Babaei, a deputy health minister, said that the first people to receive the jab would be 34,000 Iranian medical personnel who work in ICUs. Of these, around 22,000 work in government hospitals and the rest are based at private facilities.
The first shipment from Russia includes just 20,000 doses: enough to inoculate 10,000 people out of a population of more than 80 million. Most of those working in ICUs will therefore have to wait for further shipments to arrive, as will other medical workers and vulnerable members of the general population.
According to Dr. Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, two further shipments are due to arrive on February 18 and February 28. He added that he is hopeful that, in cooperation with Russia, Iran will be able to start coproducing Sputnik V inside the country in two months. Iran is also planning to import some 17 million doses of vaccine through the World Health Organization’s Covax facility, and millions more from third parties.
Meanwhile, the official daily death toll from Covid-19 in Iran has increased again. The official death toll now stands at 58.625, though the true figure is thought to be several times higher than this due to a combination of logistical problems and deliberate under-reporting.