By Pouyan Khoshhal
December 15, 2020
In the seven weeks since new restrictions came into effect, the number of Iranian cities in a “red” state of alert has fallen from 160 to 12. But with winter just around the corner and upcoming religious and secular events, worries about a potential next wave of coronavirus persist. Meanwhile, conflicting claims about the availability of an Iranian-made vaccine have also continued.
Twelve cities are in a “red” state of alert, while 231 are rated orange and 205 are yellow, announced Alireza Raeesi, a deputy health minister and the spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce. Last week, he said, 34 cities and the four provinces of Ardebil, Golestan, Gilan and Mazandaran were “red” but this week, just 12 cities and the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran are still experiencing high rates of new infections.
Dr. Raeesi said 51 percent of coronavirus cases who have been hospitalized had been infected at family gatherings. He also reported that since extended restrictions were imposed on November 21, 600,000 drivers have been fined for violating nighttime curfews and 772,000 vehicles were sent back to their points of departure for traveling to and from cities in a red state of alert.
“The first human test of the coronavirus vaccine will be carried out late in December,” said Mohammad Mokhber, head of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, referring to a planned Iranian-made vaccine. “We will produce the best and safest vaccine in the country. We have so much confidence in the vaccine that all of us are ready to volunteer for injection.”
Mokhber had announced on October 13 that a coronavirus vaccine produced by Iranian scientists had passed the animal testing phase and would be tested on humans after receiving a license from the health ministry. He added that if these efforts continue apace, Iran could be one of the leading producers of Covid-19 vaccines in the region and would be able to meet its own needs by the spring.
Not everybody shares his optimism, however. “It is unlikely that an Iranian vaccine would reach mass production until the end of summer 2021,” said Dr. Hamid Reza Tohidi Nik, an epidemiologist and a member of Kerman University of Medical Sciences’ faculty. Considering the situation, he said, “it is only logical” for Iranian officials to consider importing a vaccine already known to be safe and effective as soon as possible.
Tohidi Nik emphasized that in all countries the elderly and high-risk groups should have priority fir vaccubatuin. “There is no doubt that vaccination will be prioritized,” he said. “The ideal scenario would be that everybody or at least a large percentage of the population is vaccinated. But, if that is not possible, we can hope to be able to contain the spread through the mechanism of herd immunity, provided the vaccine can create lasting and effective immunity.”
Over the past 10 months Nahid Khoda Karami, the chairwoman of Tehran City Council’s scientific committee, has repeatedly made headlines by reporting increases in the number of fatalities in Tehran province. But on Saturday, December 12, she reported that over the last two weeks the number of local infections and fatalities had fallen. As of yesterday, she said, the total death toll from Covid-19 in Tehran stood at around 22,022, as registered by Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery. Of these people, 13,416 were men and 8,606 were women. According to her, on Thursday, December 10, 74 and on Friday, December 11, a total of 52 people died from coronavirus.