A woman receives an injection during the first trial phase of a locally-made Iranian vaccine for COVID-19 coronavirus disease in Iran’s capital Tehran (AFP)
TEHRAN: Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Friday banned Iran from importing of American Pfizer-BioNTech and Britain’s Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccines, a reflection of mistrust toward the West.
In a televised speech, he said the import of American and British vaccines were “forbidden,” referring to the surging death tolls from the virus in both countries.
”I really do not trust them,” Khamenei said of those nations. “Sometimes they want to test their vaccines on other countries, adding, “I am not optimistic (about) France,” either.
However, Khamenei okayed the import of vaccines from other “safe” places, and remains supportive of Iran’s efforts toward producing a vaccine. The country began testing its vaccines on humans in December. The product is expected to hit the local market in spring.
Hardliners in Iran have longed opposed the US-made vaccines. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in December rejected the use of foreign-made vaccines altogether.
Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi said the Guard “does not recommend the injection of any foreign vaccine” candidates based on genetic material known as messenger RNA, which carries the instructions for cells to make proteins.
Authorities said then that US-based benefactors plan to deploy scores of thousands of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus to Iran.
Iran retains routes to vaccines despite sanctions, including through its participation in COVAX. International banks and financial institutions are reluctant to deal with Iran for fear of American penalties.