TEHRAN: Iran has approved an emergency use of its first domestically developed coronavirus vaccine that could bring the hardest-hit country in the Middle East closer to inoculating its citizens against COVID-19.
The emergency authorisation was approved after the country faced problems from importing enough vaccines due to US sanctions.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki made the announcement at a ceremony in Arak University of Medical Sciences on Monday saying permission to use the Iranian vaccine COVIran Barekat has been granted.
Iranian pharmaceutical company Shifafarmed made the vaccine based on deactivated virus, and the first study of the safety and effectiveness began in late December.
Iran is also working on a vaccine in cooperation with Cuba.
Namaki said that another vaccine, produced jointly by Iran and Cuba, will join the country's vaccine package next week.
“The permit for using the Pasteur vaccine will be issued next week, and in the near future, the Razi and Fakhra vaccines will be added to the list of usable [Iranian COVID] vaccines,” the minister noted.
Iran's local vaccine research has gained urgency as officials allege that heavy American sanctions will hamper the Islamic Republic's mass inoculation efforts.
The Razi vaccine, officially known as Razi COV-Pars, is Iran’s second homegrown vaccine and a product of the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, which is administered via injection and inhalation.
Fakhra, the third Iranian vaccine, is developed by the Iranian Defense Ministry’s research center, formerly headed by nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was assassinated in a suspected Israeli-linked terror attack late last year.
Although Iran retains routes to vaccines, including through its participation in COVAX, an international initiative designed to distribute vaccines to countries regardless of their wealth, international banks and financial institutions are reluctant to deal with Iran for fear of American penalties.
Under COVAX rules, Iran could at a maximum order enough doses to vaccinate half of its 82 million people.
“Considering the capacity created inside the country, the entire target population of Iran will be vaccinated by the end of the coming fall,” the Iranian health minister said, adding that the infrastructure for domestic vaccine production has been designed in such a way that the process is independent of any particular individual.
“I proudly announce that Iranian vaccines enjoy the lowest rate of side effects and are the most effective and safest vaccines in the world,” the health minister added.
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