July 29, 2021
Iran’s Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that a shipment of 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines produced in Russia has been imported “by the private sector”, amid a surge in infections.
The Russian drugmaker R-Pharm began producing the vaccine (link is external) according to an agreement with AstraZeneca only for export, including Middle Eastern countries.
It is not clear which private importer has bought the vaccines, but the Iranian government months ago said it will allow private companies to import the vaccines. So far, all vaccines purchases have been handled through government orders and it is not cleat if the Russian company directly sells to private buyers.
In Iran all major companies capable of receiving permits to pull off such a deal are usually not true private entities but are indirectly owned by state or religious companies, often labeled charitable outfits.
Iran has fallen short in its vaccination effort, mainly because of ban on purchasing American and British vaccines the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced in January. Iran has vaccinated just 6 percent of its 85-million population, while many countries in the region are well ahead.
There have been accusations that companies controlled by state and religious institutions have become involved in the vaccine effort to make profits and the ban on importing Western vaccines was meant to market their locally produced vaccines. These are not produced in sufficient quantity yet, but have received subsidies from the state and cost many times more than internationally recognized brands.