An Iranian military commander showing a sample of a homegrown Covid vaccine in 2021

Iran's Homegrown Covid Vaccine Program Ends In Failure

Saturday, 07/09/2022
Maryam Sinaiee

British Iranian journalist and political analyst

Iran’s homegrown Covid vaccine factories are shutting down for lack of demand as many vaccinated with foreign vaccines refuse to get homegrown ones as boosters.

The whole scheme of producing domestic vaccines now seems little more than wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and precious time in preventing tens of thousands of deaths in 2021.

According to the latest official figures, nearly 65 million Iranians have had one dose, 58 million two doses but only 27 million have had a third shot of the vaccine. Of the total of 150 million doses administered so far, the Chinese Cinopharm accounts for over 80 percent and AstraZeneca for around 10 percent. Vaccine imports stopped a few months ago and the only vaccines available for a booster now are homegrown variants.

Only a total of 20 million (13%) used in the vaccination program so far were produced by the seven Iranian developers that received support and funding from the government. None of Iran’s seven homegrown vaccines has received the approval of the World Health Organization.

Some Iranian physicians believe many Iranians are refusing to get a third shot because they were inoculated with foreign-made vaccines before but will now have to get homegrown ones with doubtful efficacy against new Covid variants.

Lack of demand has led to homegrown Covid vaccine production lines shutting down one after the other and millions of doses are near expiration in storage.

All domestic developers, including the Barekat Foundation and Razi Institute, for instance, hav millions of doses of unsold vaccines which will soon expire. Developers will go bankrupt, they say, if the government does not purchase their products but the government already has 50 million doses in storage and no cash to even pay the rest of its debts, around $250 million, for the 50 million doses of homegrown vaccines it purchased before.

Khamenei said to be receiving an Iranian Covid vaccine. Undated

Some of the vaccine producers, including the state-owned Barekat Foundation, received hundreds of millions of dollars to start their vaccine development program from scratch despite having had no experience in the field.

Mohammad Mokhber, the head of the Barekat Foundation who is now vice president in President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration, repeatedly promised that the foundation would be delivering fifty million doses of its product, CoVIran-Barekat, before August 2021 to be used in the vaccination program. These promises never materialized.

Iran's national vaccination plan did not make any significant progress before presidency was handed over to Raisi in August last year. Raisi has repeatedly boasted about the success of his government in mass vaccination and Covid management.

But critics say centers of power controlled by hardliners impeded fromer President Hassan Rouhani’s vaccine purchases and once he was gone, allowed vaccines already ordered to flow into carry out the vaccination plans and take credit for it.

This resulted in a new wave of infection in the summer of 2021 to kill around 40,000 unvaccinated citizens.

The Rouhani government had ordered 16.5 million doses of these vaccines, the only ones approved by World Health Organization (WHO) at the time, through WHO’s Covax program, but Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British Covid vaccines in early January 2021 putting forth a conspiracy theory that the two counties could not be trusted.

Some hardliners including a top IRGC official even claimed that there was evidence that foreign companies producing Covid-19 vaccines wanted to reduce the world population by 20 percent or that their vaccines were meant to use as biological weapons against Iranians.

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