By Pouyan Khoshhal
September 15, 2020
When schools reopened in early September, the move was met with criticism and fear, expressed by both parents and even some health officials. From the very beginning, people had worried that students would spread the virus. Despite this, President Rouhani’s administration decided to go ahead with the reopening and even insisted that it was preferable for pupils to attend schools in person.
It was reported that in one county in Lorestan province alone, Selseleh, 39 students had contracted coronavirus. Farid Bahrami, the deputy head of Lorestan’s Education Bureau, denied that any of those infected had actually attended school. “Twenty-one students had been infected with coronavirus before schools reopened in the county and 18 students were infected on September 1 and September 2,” he claimed.
Nevertheless, it appeared that that the situation was serious enough for the education bureau to close all schools in the county and the neighboring one. “Schools in Selseleh and Delfan counties have been shut down and classes will be held remotely,” announced Bahrami.
Also on September 14, Ayub Sadeghi, deputy head of the Education Bureau in the City of Fasa in Fars province, reported that three students had been infected with coronavirus and two high schools had been closed to prevent the spread of the virus.
As the cold weather approaches, Iranians have been calling for flu vaccines to be widely distributed in the hopes of making it easier for people to dismiss fears that they have Covid-19. Many doctors have advised people to be vaccinated to ensure hospitals and medical centers are not swamped and to prevent widespread panic. Rumors about vaccine distribution have been rampant in recent days.
Iran imports flu vaccines, but it has yet to develop one domestically. As a result, several Iranian officials have been trying to downplay the importance of the flu vaccine, placating the public with the refrain: “The flu vaccine does not do anything to contain coronavirus.” The latest came from Mohsen Zahraei, the head of the health ministry’s Vaccination Department, who said: “The flu vaccine is not a perfect protective shield and it would be wrong to assume that after vaccination a flu patient could not get infected in the fall or in the winter.”
Preparing the public that the availability of a flu vaccine might be limited, Zahraei said that, of course, people without underlying conditions can be vaccinated. “But if we do this,” he warned. “High-risk groups will be deprived of the vaccine.”
Dr. Saeed Kashmiri, president of Bushehr University of Medical Sciences, echoed this. “The flu vaccination is only for certain specified groups, as advised by the health ministry.”
In past years, Iran annually imported two million doses of flu vaccine, but this year, according to Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the health ministry’s public relations office, Iran’s Food and Drug Administration will import between 10 and 12 million doses. It was promised that the distribution of the vaccine would start in August, but it has now been delayed until later in September. Karim Hemmati, director-general of Iran’s Red Crescent Society, said that if the demand for the vaccine increases, 16 million doses of flu vaccine will be imported.
It remains to be seen what will actually happen as autumn officially arrives on September 22, and how Iranian health officials will cope.