President Biden Should Offer Vaccines to the People of Iran
U.S. Leadership on Global Pandemic Response Should Not Be Tied to Politics
Iranian American Groups Call for Aid to “Brave and Resilient” Iranian People
August 18, 2021 – A coalition of major Iranian American organizations today called on the Biden administration to expand its global COVID-19 vaccine donation campaign to Iran.
Iran currently holds the 10th highest COVID mortality rate in the world and has had five waves of the pandemic since January 2020. The country continues to report the highest infection and death numbers in the Middle East, with experts inside and outside the country arguing that Iran’s real numbers are much higher.
“This would not be a gift to the government of Iran, but rather an honorable offer of assistance to the brave and resilient Iranian people, and in the best interest of U.S. public diplomacy towards Iran,” said a letter signed by the Center for Human Rights in Iran, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, and the Iranian American Bar Association.
On August 17, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration said the supreme leader’s ban on U.S. and British vaccines had been lifted, but noted that Iran would only be accepting Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that had been produced outside the United States. The Iranian American coalition said the Biden administration should offer vaccines regardless because the international community should not let any more people die due to the Iranian government’s COVID response.
Iranian officials’ promises to inoculate the population through domestically produced vaccines have fallen flat, with less than 10 percent of Iran’s 85 million people fully vaccinated as of August 2021. Health experts within the country are raising alarms that the health system is nearing collapse.
Following is the full text of the letter sent to the Biden administration on August 18, 2021.
August 18, 2021
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
As the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths reach record highs in Iran, we are writing to urge you to expand the U.S. global vaccine donation campaign to the Iranian people, who are unable to access safe vaccines. Such a measure would serve U.S. policy interests of engaging the Iranian people and have the full backing of the Iranian American community, many of whom have family and friends still residing in Iran.
Irrespective of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s unconscionable ban on the importation of U.S. and other Western-produced vaccines, we urge you to exercise global leadership and address the urgent, humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Iran.
The Iranian government is responsible for the rate at which COVID-19 is ravaging the country, yet it is the Iranian people who are paying the price. While doctors in Iran say deaths due to the virus, already the highest in the Middle East, are more than double what is being reported, the Iranian government has rejected vaccine donation offers through COVAX, instead pouring money into its failed domestic vaccine production programs.
Less than 10 percent of Iran’s population of 85 million are fully vaccinated. The health system is being overwhelmed and mass graves are being dug to accommodate the dead. This situation is not only an Iranian disaster, but it represents a continued threat to the global community from a virus that knows no national boundaries.
Iran’s supreme leader may choose to ignore the calls of his own people and prolong his deadly ban on American vaccines, but this should not deter you from expanding your donation campaign to Iran. This would not be a gift to the government of Iran, but rather an honorable offer of assistance to the brave and resilient Iranian people, and in the best interest of U.S. public diplomacy towards Iran.
We ask you to stand with the Iranian people and place the U.S. at the forefront of international efforts to contain this global pandemic by demonstrating that the U.S. vaccine donation program knows no politics.