ANALYSIS: The Iranian government’s approach to coronavirus vaccine
by Cyrus Yaqubi
The government did not pay a dollar to buy the vaccine, and the fate of importing the vaccine may be the same as the flu vaccine.
Hassan Rouhani defended his actions, perhaps it does more justice to say his inaction, in dealing with coronavirus outbreak while almost all provinces of Iran are in red zones and even some are in black zone, and according to unofficial reports so far nearly 180 ,000 died and more than 1.2 million people contracted the coronavirus, and said:
“We were approaching the channel of 500 people a day, and even some predictions indicated that we would have much worse conditions with the same trend, but with measures that were taken, we reached below 400 people and we hope to have better conditions with the cooperation of the people.” He continued to justify the government’s inaction: “Using a mask, observing social distancing, and not getting together principles should always be observed. If the traffic increases and getting together starts, our problem will increase.”
Furthermore, to lower the expectation of Iranians to get vaccinated for coronavirus soon, he indirectly hinted tried to not expect receiving coronavirus vaccine and said: “We must always continue to take care, even if we are given a safe vaccine and the right dose and we could administer it, people still must follow the protocols. The effects and side effects of the vaccines are not yet known, and it is not clear what is the effectiveness of the vaccines that are supposed to be in the countries that want to start vaccination, and the side effects of these vaccines are not clear to the world.”
“Maybe some of these vaccines have side effects, so we cannot hope for a vaccine that is not yet available. Whenever a safe vaccine is found, it will not be produced as many doses as required and production capacity is limited in the world. Vaccination takes time to administer to everyone who needs it, so care should not be reduced in the hope of vaccination”, he added. “We think the vaccine will arrive and our problems will be solved, while no vaccine is 100% effective and we do not know if the virus will mutate or not, and if that happens, the vaccines should be changed.”
Rouhani blamed the people and added: “We all have a duty to impose strictures on these cases. Wherever it becomes clear that the patient has violated the quarantine, fines should be imposed on them. When we enforce a protocol and it is ratified and communicated by the coronavirus National Headquarters, our own officials are to implement it and our duty to implement it is greater and higher than that of ordinary people.”
Rouhani also justified his long absence and that of Khamenei out of fear of contracting coronavirus by quoting a verse from the Qur’an: “Whoever has a higher responsibility, and the people look up to him in government, his actions can be effective. Ministers and other agencies and all those responsible in the country must comply more than others, and if they do not comply, it will make people feel that these protocols are not very necessary, and if it was necessary, why some administration and ministry and some officials did not comply.”
Abdul Nasser Hemmati, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran, also said that Tehran’s attempt to pay the World Health Organization to buy the coronavirus vaccine had been hampered by “sanctions”.
Hemmati wrote in a text posted on his Instagram page on Monday, December 7: “Since the purchase of the COVAX vaccine must be done through the official channel of the World Health Organization, so far any way to pay and transfer the required currency, because “The inhumane sanctions imposed by the US government and the need to obtain OFAC licenses have been hampered.”
Earlier, Nasser Riahi, president of the Union of Medicine Importers, denied the problem of transferring money for the import of the coronavirus vaccine under the embargo, saying that 30% of Iran’s imported medicines are from the United States with sanctions in place.
Riahi also noted that international sanctions do not include the coronavirus vaccine, and the two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna would certainly reach Iran.
Meanwhile, Shahriari, the head of parliamentary health commission, stated that Iran cannot afford to buy the coronavirus vaccine and they will not give it to us. The government did not pay a dollar to buy the vaccine, and the fate of importing the vaccine may be the same as the flu vaccine. He added: Iran was supposed to be a member of COVAX, if Iran could pay. They are supposed to give 16.800 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to Iran, while the initial advance payment is $52 million, which has not even been paid one dollar so far.
The BBC quoted the Washington Post in a report on the subject that a COVAX spokesman told the newspaper last Friday (December 4th): “There are no legal obstacles for Iran getting the vaccine.”
The Washington Post wrote: “A COVAX spokesman said Iran had obtained the necessary authorization from the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Oversight (OFAC) to make an exemption to pay for vaccine purchases, and there was no legal ban on purchase of vaccine through COVAX by Iran.”
On the other hand, Saeed Namaki, the Minister of Health, to cover up the inaction of the government said: “We want to transfer money for the coronavirus vaccine, but they have closed all the means and exerted pressure on the people, but we are still in a better situation than many rich countries in the world.”
He claimed that the Islamic Republic would announce an “achievement” soon to counter coronavirus. He said, “We have reached a clear point in the control of viral diseases and an achievement of Islamic Republic in the near future will be announced that ranks Iran in the world in this field in the first place.”
But he did not elaborate on his claim!
Cyrus Yaqubi is a Research Analyst and Iranian Foreign Affairs Commentator investigating the social issues and economy of the middle east countries in general and Iran in particular.