- “Importing vaccines made in the US or the UK is prohibited,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a tweet.
- Iran is the country in the Middle East most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins.
- Iran announced earlier this week that it would increase its uranium enrichment capacity.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday announced a ban on COVID-19 vaccines originating from the United States and the United Kingdom. The Supreme Leader said that he has no iota of trust in the two countries. Notably though, Tehran says it is currently developing its own vaccine.
“Importing vaccines made in the US or the UK is prohibited,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a tweet, accompanied by the hashtag #CoronaVaccine.
“It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” he said in a speech to the country, broadcast on Iranian television on Friday.
In a televised speech, he said the import of American and British vaccines were “forbidden,” referring to the surging death tolls the virus in both countries.
”I really do not trust,” them, he said of those nations. “Sometimes they want to test” their vaccines on other countries, adding, “I am not optimistic [about] France” either.
Following Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech, the Red Crescent non-governmental organization was forced to cancel its plan to import 150,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine into Iran, after having secured them with the help of philanthropists, according to Al-Jazeera.
Iran is the country in the Middle East most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 1.2 million SARS-CoV-2 infections and more than 56,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.
Making vaccines approved in the West unfeasible, the vaccination campaign in Iran may take longer to start. However, Khamenei said that Iran can purchase vaccines from other “trusted” countries, although he did not specify which. They are likely to be China and Russia, the country’s allies.
In addition, Tehran is developing its own vaccine, called COVIran Barekat, with human trials starting on 29 December, a breakthrough that “prides and honors the country,” in the words of Khamenei.
Iranian authorities are also trying to secure the purchase of nearly 17 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, a global initiative, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), which aims to make vaccines against COVID-19 reach poorer countries.
Iran contributed $244 million to the initiative, according to Iranian Central Bank official, Abdolnaser Hemmati.
Ali Khamenei’s speech against Western vaccines, particularly those developed in the United States, comes at a time when tension between Washington and Tehran has been rising, especially after the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January last year.
In addition, due to the sanctions imposed by the United States after Donald Trump unilaterally broke the nuclear agreement in 2018, Iran announced earlier this week that it would increase its uranium enrichment capacity in what appears to be a challenge to the incoming president, Joe Biden’s administration.
The President-elect of the United States has already shown willingness to sit at the negotiating table with the Iranian authorities, and even the more moderate government of President Hassan Rohani admits that it is willing to resume the nuclear deal, provided that sanctions against Tehran are lifted.
The Ayatollah Khamenei, however, in his speech on Friday, said that Iran “has no hurry” to the United States to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, but demanded that sanctions be lifted immediately.