Iran Should Lift Deadly Ban on Foreign COVID Vaccines
Iran Refusing COVAX Offers as Infections, Deaths Surge
Biden Administration Should Include Iran in Global Vaccination Campaign
August 11, 2021–Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei should immediately lift his ban on foreign COVID-19 vaccines, and U.S. President Joe Biden should include Iran in its global vaccination efforts, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said today.
Khamenei’s ban on importing vaccines from major vaccine-producing countries including the U.S., UK, and France, as well as Iranian officials’ false promises of an effective domestic vaccination program, have been followed by surging infections and deaths throughout the country.
“The Iranian officials who imposed and supported the ban on importing vaccines into the country are responsible for this mounting tragedy and should be held accountable,” said CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“The authorities must immediately arrange the importation of COVID-19 vaccines regardless of country of origin to prevent further deaths and save the country’s health system from collapsing,” he added.
Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education said daily deaths had risen to 536 as of August 11, 2021, bringing the total official tally to 95,647—though experts inside and outside the country believe the actual numbers are much higher.
According to figures released by Iran’s Ministry of Health, only about 7.6 million people have received the first vaccine dose and 2.3 million had received both as of July 24, 2021.
The vast majority of Iranians are meanwhile unable to afford the reported $1,350 black market price for Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots.
Former Parliamentarian: Iran Refused COVAX Offer of Moderna Vaccine
Iran is able to import vaccines through COVAX, a global initiative that was designed to ensure low-income countries can access vaccines but has so far refused offers made from various producers, CHRI has learned.
“Because of the continuing ban imposed by Iran’s leader on the importation of vaccines produced by the U.S. and the U.K., the entry of Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and AstraZeneca vaccines into Iran have been dangerously hampered,” Ali Akbar Mousavi-Khoeini, a former member of Parliament in Iran, told CHRI.
“When we contacted the authorities at WHO in charge of COVAX distribution, we were told that as of last week Iran refused to accept U.S.-made vaccines as a donation or to purchase them for a fair price, including an offer for the Moderna vaccine,” added Mousavi-Khoeini, who is currently an academic researcher in the U.S. “The only purchase Iran made was for China’s Sinopharm vaccine.”
Promised Iranian Vaccines Never Materialized
During a televised address on August 11, Khamenei demanded greater efforts on “imports and domestic production” but he did not lift the ban.
After Khamenei’s ban on foreign vaccines, Iranian authorities poured funds into the production of domestically produced shots, but they have not delivered even a fraction of what had been promised.
“The Iranian people are falling ill from COVID-19 and dying in catastrophic numbers,” said Ghaemi, “while the Iranian government plays politics and negates its responsibility for the wellbeing of the citizenry.”
New Iranian Appointees Bode Poorly for Pandemic Management
The announcement of President Ebrahim Raisi’s proposed cabinet, including the appointment of Mohammad Mokhber-Dezfouli (or Dezfuli) as first vice president and Bahram Einollahi’s nomination as the minister of health, has raised serious concerns about the new government’s desire or ability to effectively manage the pandemic.
As the CEO of the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam Khomeini, a giant business conglomerate controlled by the supreme leader, Mokhber in April 2021 had falsely promised to deliver 50 million domestic vaccines by late August 2021.
Einollahi, who has been deputy health minister in charge of medical education since December 2020, had signed a letter in January 2021 supporting Khamenei’s ban on importing vaccines from the U.S., UK, and France, and even demanded the government not purchase any COVAX vaccines through the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Biden administration said it had donated 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries as of August 3, 2021.
With its population of 84 million, Iran needs at least 120 million vaccine doses to inoculate its adult and young population.
“Iranians are struggling to survive under a government that has repeatedly put its interests over the interests of its people,” said Ghaemi.
“This is a matter of life and death,” he added. “Every effort should be made to make safe vaccines available to those who need them.”
“Politics has no place in global health emergencies,” Ghaemi said. “President Biden should offer vaccine donations to Iran and the Iranian government should accept them to stave off a major humanitarian crisis.”
Read this article in Persian.