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

September 4, 2021

The spokesman of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, Dr Kianoush Jahanpur, has denied a claim that 2 million doses of the Sputnik Covid-19 vaccine have been repatriated to Russia despite a severe pandemic crisis in Iran. Jahanpur said Saturday that the Iranian company producing the vaccine under licence was waiting for approval from Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik.

The allegation was made in an interview published in Javan newspaper earlier Saturday with Dr Mohammad Kariminia, deputy commander of Iran’s Biological Defence Organization, which operates under the supervision of the Armed Forces’ Joint Staff.

Kariminia said that sending vaccines to Russia clashed with promises made by Iranian officials that the doses would be used in Iran. He insisted that the terms of the relevant contract meant the Russian producer of Sputnik V was merely outsourcing production to Iran’s Actoverco, a private company, and there was no obligation for the vaccines to be used in Iran. Kariminia said the authorities should have insisted Actoverco make its own vaccines rather than produce foreign ones.

Many vaccination centers have closed down in Iran in recent days due to lack of vaccines, as the governmetn keeps promising to import large quantities.

Kariminia was not the first to raise the matter. Alireza Raisi (Raeesi), a deputy health minister and spokesman of Iran’s National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, said in July that Sputnik V produced in Iran could be distributed elsewhere.

Iran approved use of Sputnik V, as made in Russia, in January 25, and Iran’s ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali said an agreement had been reached to produce Sputnik V under license in Iran. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) confirmed in June that Actoverco had produced a test batch.

Saeed Namaki, an ex-chief executive of Actoverco and then health minister, kicked off Iran’s vaccination program February 9 with the first dose of Sputnik V administered to his son in a televised ceremony attended by former president Hassan Rouhani. Iran said in April it had agreed with Russia to purchase 62 million doses of Sputnik V, but only 2 million doses have been delivered, leading to criticism of Russia.

Iran has fully vaccinated 10.2 percent of the population, with around two-thirds of the 27 million doses coming from China. The vaccination figure compares to 85 percent in the United Arab Emirates, 45.5 percent in Turkey, 1.3 percent in Iraq, and 1.1 percent in Afghanistan, according to John Hopkins University.

Iranian officials have also complained over slow delivery of the PastoCoVac vaccine, a joint production based on Cuba’s Soberana-02, a project agreed in December between Iran’s Pasteur Institute and Cuba’s Finlay Institute.

Iran currently faces a fifth wave of the Covid pandemic with daily deaths at around 600 on health ministry figures. Media and local officials in Iran have long said these figures, based on PCR test results, underplay the pandemic and have put the actual number of deaths at 2.5 to three times higher.

Iran International

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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.