Iran says US approved its funds transfer to buy COVID vaccines

Iran’s central bank says it received backing from the US to transfer money to a Swiss account to pay for the vaccines.

Iran's daily death toll from the coronavirus has fallen to a three-month low [Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo]

Iran has secured an approval from the United States to transfer funds for coronavirus vaccines from overseas, the central bank chief has said, as its daily death toll fell to a three-month low.

Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said an Iranian bank had received backing from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to transfer the money to a Swiss bank to pay for the vaccines.

“They [Americans] have put sanctions on all our banks. They accepted this one case under the pressure of world public opinion,” Hemmati told state TV.

There was no immediate US reaction to Hemmati’s remarks.

Hemmati said Iran would pay nearly $244m for initial imports of 16.8 million doses of the vaccines from COVAX, a multiagency group dedicated to assuring fair access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said the US sanctions are preventing them from making payments to COVAX, to which some 190 economies have signed up.

Iran’s Shifa Pharmed began registering volunteers this week for human trials of the country’s first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Iranian media reported, as a factional dispute appeared to be brewing over the use of imports.

“We do not recommend injecting foreign coronavirus vaccines to the personnel of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij [voluntary militia],” Iranian news outlets quoted Mohammed Reza Naqdi, a deputy head of the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as saying.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari earlier told state TV that 152 people had died of COVID-19 in Iran in the past 24 hours, the lowest number since September 18, taking total deaths to 54,308 in the worst-affected country in the Middle East.

The fall in deaths comes after more than a month of night traffic curfews and other restrictions in big cities. Police said 96,000 fines were issued nationwide on Wednesday for drivers breaking the curfew.

Officials have cautioned that the danger of a resurgence in infections looms large.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers in 2018 and imposed new sanctions on the country.

President-elect Joe Biden’s coming to power has raised the possibility that Washington could rejoin the agreement.

Source: Reuters