Iran will start its first coronavirus vaccinations this week using Russia’s Sputnik V shot to inoculate health care workers at the epicenter of the Middle East’s worst outbreak.
The shots will be given to medical personnel tending to serious cases of the disease in intensive care units from Feb. 9, Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on Sunday, without giving more details, according to state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
Some 1.3 million of the most vulnerable people will also receive their first shots by March 20, or the end of the current Iranian calendar year, according to a statement on the government’s official website, dolat.ir. Ali Raisi, spokesman for the government’s coronavirus task force, said in the statement that the vaccines will be free of charge.
Iran has reported more than 1.4 million cases and almost 60,000 deaths so far. Officials have blamed US sanctions for hampering their ability to both contain the disease and ward off economic collapse.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decision to ban British and US-made shots as untrustworthy could further complicate efforts to stabilize the outbreak and begin recovery, though Iran has secured some 4.2 million doses of the U.K.-based AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot through the global vaccine procurement system backed by the World Health Organization.
Sputnik V deal
Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, said the countries would soon finalize an agreement for Iran to produce Sputnik V by April, according to state TV.
On Sunday, while the country reported 7,065 new infections overnight, the number of daily deaths from the virus dropped to 57, the lowest figure since May 2020.
Iran also unveiled its second locally developed vaccine for the disease, called Razi Cov Pars, a recombinant protein-based vaccine that’s been developed by state-owned Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, state TV reported.
The first clinical trial phase of COVIRAN, the country’s other homemade vaccine, was completed last week with 56 volunteers and is expected to be approved for use by the general population by the summer, officials have said.