By Pouyan Khoshhal
December 25, 2020
The question of acquiring a coronavirus vaccine continued to dominate the news on Wednesday, December 23. Iranian officials continued to make promises without mentioning any specifics, and the hashtag #Buy_the_Vaccine continues to trend on social media.
“Despite all the pressures and difficulties, we will buy the vaccine from the best and most trustworthy sources in the world,” said Health Minister Saeed Namaki. “Nowhere in the world have they begun inoculations hastily and, if they did, it was not wise.”
Mahmoud Vaezi, President Rouhani’s chief of staff, yet again blamed US sanctions for the delay in purchasing vaccines. “The fundamental problem we always have in acquiring medicine, vaccines and essential goods is sanctions and excessive pressure by the US,” he said. “The Americans publicly say that there are no restriction on buying medicines and vaccines but in practice when we want to buy them, they contact various banks and even prevented the payment of $5 billion [to Iran] by the International Monetary Fund to purchase essential goods and medicine.”
In recent weeks Islamic Republic officials have repeatedly said US sanctions are preventing Iran from buying a coronavirus vaccine. On December 22, 29 human rights organizations issued a statement, calling for “equitable access” of Iranians to Covid-19 vaccines. “We particularly call on the government of the United States to provide assurances to financial institutions that they will not be subject to US sanctions for facilitating transfers of Iranian currency for the purpose of purchasing vaccine,” said the statement. “We urge the Iranian government to use funds, distribute vaccines, and fight the pandemic in an equitable and transparent manner, in line with recognized due diligence standards.
“US sanctions on Iran appear to be already impeding the transfer of funds to the COVAX Facility, the effort of the World Health Organization and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, to manage global vaccine distribution. The head of the Central Bank of Iran, Abdolnaser Hemmati, reported on social media that the banks in South Korea that hold Iranian frozen assets have refused to guarantee the transfer of funds to COVAX for fear that such funds will be seized by the United States. According to a report by Reuters, South Korea’s foreign ministry expressed a similar need for specific US approval with regard to transfers to the Swiss-managed humanitarian channel with Iran.”
No Cases of Coronavirus Variant Found in Iran
When the United Kingdom announced a new, more infectious strain of coronavirus is surging through parts of England, Iran immediately banned flights to and from the UK. “No cases of the new virus have so far been found in the country, but we are still investigating and will announce if any case is identified,” said Health Minister Saeed Namaki. All travelers who have entered the country from the UK in the last two or three weeks are being monitored individually, said Namaki.
In the last week Dr. Minoo Moharez, the lead epidemiologist in the development of an Iranian vaccine and a member of National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, has speculated that the new variant might have been responsible for the surge in the number of fatalities in Iran over the course of October-November.