Days after banning the imports of Covid-19 vaccines from the US and the UK, Iran is planning to procure some two million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from India, China, and Russia by the end of the current Iranian calendar year (March 20), according to the Tehran Times.
The EurAsian Times has already reported that the ban on the UK and the US vaccines could open the door for imports from India, China, and Russia.
According to the Tehran Times report, Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, head of Iran’s Medical Council, said even though the Iranian-made vaccine is more reliable than many foreign-made vaccines, it takes a long time to get it approved; hence the health ministry plans to import some two million doses of vaccines from India, China, and Russia by the end of the year.
Zafarghandi said Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were never on the agenda to be purchased by Iran due to their high prices, transportation problems, and the need to be kept extremely cold.
He further explained that the AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by Sweden and scientific studies conducted in Oxford University, is more reliable because it is possible to keep it in Iran.
Last week, Iranian leader Ali Khamenei had raised doubts on the US-made Covid-19 vaccines. He had announced that the import of the American Pfizer-BioNTech and Britain’s AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines is “forbidden”.
Khamenei had said in a televised speech: “I really don’t trust them. They sometimes want to test the vaccine on other nations.”
The Iranian Red Crescent Society spokesman Mohammad-Hassan Qossian-Moqaddam had also said that importing Pfizer vaccines made by the United States “is no more the question”.
“We are ready to cooperate, if necessary, in case the Ministry of Health puts in a request [for importing vaccines] from eastern countries,” IRNA quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, Iran has been undertaking the human trials of its domestically made Covid-19 vaccine. The government is also looking at COVAX, an initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In September, the Iranian Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali had said Iran and Russia will cooperate for producing the Russian vaccine. India has approved two vaccines, the Oxford-Astrazeneca’s and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
In October, Iran had announced, “readiness to participate in the production of a Covid-19 vaccine with China”. As per John Hopkins University, Iran is one of the worst-hit countries with 1,286,406 cases.