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Where does Iran stand regarding COVID vaccines for Iranians?

Written By | Dec 31, 2020
Iran, COVID-19, Farsi, Prison, Regime, Outbreak, Oppression, Iran, Iranian, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Regime

As countries throughout the world put plans into motion for the vaccination of their populations for COVID-19, Iran stands out for its approach to the pandemic. Instead of doing what was necessary to preserve lives through quarantines, social distancing, and mask mandates, the Iranian regime opted to allow the virus to run through the population, in an attempt to achieve herd immunity.

Now that a vaccine is available, the Iranian government is claiming that the U.S. sanctions are blocking them from purchasing the vaccine and setting up a vaccination program.

“Unfortunately, the fate of the import of the vaccine into the country and the production of this vaccine in Iran is in a state of ambiguity. On the other hand, when people see that in many countries, including our neighbors, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the disease has subsided due to the vaccine of reputable companies, I think in such a situation, with people under quarantine and economic pressure, there will be limited tolerance from the Iranian people. This social resilience may come to an end and manifest itself in the form of street protests,” said Mahboubfar, a sociologist and researcher in the field of social harms related to the Iranian regime.

While countries have begun the process of vaccine purchase and public vaccination, Iranian officials continue to make excuses, claiming barriers are in place to stop the Iranian people from receiving access to the vaccine.

“The purchase of the corona vaccine must be done through the official channel of the World Health Organization,” said Abdul Nasser Hemmati, the governor of the regime’s central bank to the Fars News Agency in December 2020. “Any way to pay and transfer currency has been blocked due to U.S. sanctions and the need to obtain an effect license.”

Other members of the regime have echoed that excuse, claiming they are unable to purchase the vaccine and so the Iranian people are suffering again because of U.S. sanctions. The reality is that the Iranian government is not being blocked from access to the vaccine, according to multiple reports, including those from the Washington Post and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Oversight.

Read more from Hamid Enayat on CDN

Additionally, there is the Covax program, which is a plan where seventy-six rich countries around the world are committed to joining a global corona vaccine program led by the World Health Organization. The purpose of this program is to help purchase and distribute the corona vaccine fairly. Iran is also a member of this consortium.

When it is made clear that there is no block from the U.S. sanctions regarding Iran’s access to the vaccine, the Iranian regime’s officials argue that there is a lack of sufficient foreign exchange resources and issues with currency transfers. They also emphasized long-standing problems with buying medicine for the Iranian people. Yet their own unions tell a different story.

“$100 million a month was spent on importing drugs and their raw materials, and if that had not happened, we would have faced serious problems and shortages in supplying drugs in the country today, but this did not happen,” said Riahi, president of the Drug Importers Union. “We import from various American, European, Indian, Chinese, and Russian pharmaceutical companies and the same currency is transferred in all of these transactions. The total amount needed to buy the vaccine may be 200 or eventually 300 million euros, and this is not something that officials are seriously concerned about.”

Despite all the evidence that a vaccine would be available for the Iranian people, it seems that the regime is more concerned with placing blame on the international community. They are ignoring the fact that they have created a budget based on imaginary income from oil exports that have not actually materialized. The excuses are meant to hide the fact that they are mismanaging the resources of the Iranian people and focus the rage of the Iranian people away from the regime.

Unfortunately for the regime, its diversionary tactics will not work indefinitely. The Iranian people are reaching the point where economic and social unrest is reaching a fevered pitch. The increasing number of Iranian deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic are only escalating the challenges facing the regime. Even prisoners are being denied amnesty and prison riots have been the result.

“The way we dealt with COVID-19 and the policies that were adopted from the outset showed that collective safety, or the herd, is the solution to the disease. This view is completely immoral, and even the World Health Organization has rejected it. It is now clear that the collective safety theory about this disease is not valid. In our country, the ineffectiveness of this theory was determined by the increase in the number of deaths. In some days, Iran had the highest mortality rate due to the population,” said Mahboubfar.

Why would the regime opt for herd immunity versus vaccination, quarantine, and other safety measures? Simply put, quarantine would cost them money to support the Iranian people while they stayed at home. The wealth of the Iranian people is in the hands of Khamenei and the IRGC, so there is nothing left to fight COVID-19 or deal with the other issues plaguing the Iranian people.

It is clear that the regime’s focus is to protect their seat of power, even if it means sacrificing millions of Iranians to a deadly disease during the height of the pandemic.

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an independent Iranian political analyst and writer based in Europe.