Iran’s Khamenei says pandemic is top priority after banning western vaccines

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday the COVID-19 pandemic was the country’s “number-one problem” and must urgently be curbed.

Khamenei, who in January banned imports of U.S.- and British-made vaccines, said the government should “increase efforts to both import and to produce homegrown vaccines”.

Since the start of the pandemic, Iran has recorded nearly 4 million COVID-19 cases and more than 91,000 deaths as more than 500 people die daily — the highest numbers across the Middle East.

Dr. Mohammad-Reza Zafarghandi, chairman of Iran’s Medical Council, indirectly criticized the ban on U.S. and U.K.-made Covid-19 vaccines and wrote: “Will those who said vaccine imports should be restricted be accountable today?”

Iran has blamed U.S. sanctions for hampering purchases and deliveries of vaccines from other nations but food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from U.S. sanctions reimposed on Tehran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump abandoned Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers.

Authorities have said daily deaths might reach 800 in the coming weeks. Khamenei urged the nation to observe the ministry’s health protocols.

Iranian state media carried pictures of hospitals in several cities that have run out of beds for new patients. State TV said most of Iran’s 31 provinces have moved from the lower-risk orange level to red alert.

On January 8, 2021, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said in a speech that “import of (Covid-19) vaccines made in the US and UK are prohibited.” In a tweet hidden by Twitter, Khamenei claimed that vaccines made in the US or the UK are “completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations.” Following his statement, about 200 Iranian parliament members also called for banning the import of Covid-19 vaccines made in the US, the UK, and France.

Source: Reuters
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