September 15, 2021
Masoud Pezeshkian, a former health minister and member of parliament, told conservative Asr-e Iran news website Tuesday that the government of president Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) deserved no credit for the increasing speed of Covid-19 vaccination and that “centers of influence” had impeded the previous administration of President Hassan Rouhani.
Hardliners have accused the Rouhani government of incompetence in handling Covid. In a commentary Monday, Mashregh News website said current daily vaccination of around 1 million people, the highest yet, had “disgraced” the Rouhani administration.
Pezeshkian countered the argument from hardliner media that the new government had improved vaccine delivery, arguing the process of procurement to actual vaccination took five to six months. “This government has not ordered any vaccines, let them say otherwise if they can,” he said, urging the health ministry’s former Food and Drug Administration chief, Dr Mohammad Shanesaz, to shed light on the matter “if he dared.”
Iran has now fully vaccinated around 12.5 million people, around 14 percent of the population, according to figures released by the health ministry Tuesday. John Hopkins University gives a figure of 15 percent, compared to 49 percent in Turkey, 5 percent in Iraq and 5 percent in Egypt – all countries with roughly comparable populations.
According to the Iranian Customs Organization, Covid vaccine imports have increased over 40 percent in the past three weeks, from 28 million doses when parliament approved Raisi’s cabinet August 25 to nearly 47 million.
Health officials say 130 million doses will arrive in the next two months. China’s Sinopharm makes up most of the 36 million doses administered.
The Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Fars News in a commentary Tuesday also flagged the 1 million figure and praised Raisi for “direct negotiation” with vaccine-producing countries. The president spoke by telephone August 18 with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Fars explained, to expedite the sending of millions of doses of vaccines “purchased by Iran.” This gives credence to Pezeshkian’s argument that vaccines were ordered before Raisi assumed office.
The Rouhani government, had ordered 16.5 million doses through the World Health Organization’s Covax program, but Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and Birtish Covid vaccines in early January putting forth a conspiracy theory that the two counties could not be trusted.
Khamenei’s ban was supported by hardliners who following his lead said Iranians could not be used as “guinea pigs” to test western vaccines. The Rouhani administration reluctantly backed off and looked for joint production with Cuba, purchases from several countries including China, Russia and India, and using homegrown vaccines as they would become available.
Iran has so far only received 2.1 million doses through Covax. Russia in February pledged over 60 million doses but has delivered only a fraction. Only 365,000 people have received the two doses of Sputnik V required for full vaccination, with 100,000 still waiting for second.