Iran denies ‘US sabotage’ against homemade vaccine project

Iranian health officials have rejected several claims of an “American sabotage attack” or the halt of the country’s native vaccine projects. “The VOC-Iran Barakat production line is running at full capacity,” read a statement from the state-funded industry group Shifapharmed, which is involved in the production of one vaccine from a long list of vaccines that Iran says it has developed to immunize its population against multiple variants of the coronavirus.

“The production of national COVID-19 vaccines in Iran has been delayed due to a hostile American act,” said Mohammad Marandi, an Iranian conservative expert, whose father is a former health minister and currently a special doctor for the United States. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He made the comments during a Twitter Spaces meeting hosted by the Iranian state-funded English-language newspaper, Tehran Times. Marandi also said at the same meeting that he was not allowed to explain himself further. After the vaccine manufacturer’s denial, Marandi claimed that his words, heard by the participants, had been misquoted.

Still, Marandi’s statement fueled already growing suspicions about a possible sabotage attack. Last month, Hojjat Niki-Maleki, spokesman for the business empire funding the VOC-Iran Barakat project, said a batch of 1.2 million doses had been rendered unusable “due to a problem.” He did not give more details.

And on Wednesday, senior Iranian epidemiologist Minou Mohraz angered the health ministry with controversial comments on a joint Iran-Cuban vaccine project. Mohraz said that despite an earlier agreement, the Cuban side had withdrawn its participation. In a strong reaction, spokesman for the Food and Medicines Organization of Iran, Kianoush Jahanpour, dismissed the epidemiologist’s “baseless” remarks, adding that the position was his personal opinion and that she had never had an official link with the National Coronavirus Task Force. Mohraz is widely known in Iranian media as a member of the scientific council of the task force.

Conflicting statements have further blurred prospects for the rollout of the vaccine, promises Iranian officials have repeatedly deferred.

As of July 7, a total of 4.5 million doses of mainly Russian and Chinese vaccines had been distributed nationwide. Of the 85 million inhabitants of the country, only 2 million have received their two blows.

Iran is currently grappling with what health officials have called a “fifth wave” of the pandemic. The new resurgence involving the Delta variant hits the impoverished province of Sistan and Balochistan hard. Also on Thursday, officials in the southern town of Bandar Abbas reported a “super critical emergency,” while the capital’s largest cemetery, Tehran, was placed on high alert in anticipation of an influx. of corpses.

As the worst-affected nation in the Middle East, Iran’s official death toll from the pandemic stood at more than 85,000 on July 8.

The disorderly vaccination also came in contrast to statements by Iranian officials praising their indigenous vaccine plans. Just last week, Health Minister Saeed Namaki explained how “Iran will soon become the center for the world’s oppressed to get vaccinated” against the virus.

“I wish we had stopped bragging with slogans [and instead] maintained better ties with the world, ”wrote Saeed Reza Mehrpour, a well-known hospital director in Tehran, in scathing critiques of the Islamic Republic’s comprehensive immunization policy. “I wish we had just acted with humility in purchasing vaccines for our people from credible international companies.”

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