Tehran, Iran – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has prohibited imports of COVID-19 vaccines from the United States and the United Kingdom.
In a televised speech on Friday, the supreme leader said he has no confidence in vaccines coming out of the two Western powers since they have some of the highest mortality rates in the world.
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“If the Americans had managed to manufacture a vaccine, this coronavirus fiasco wouldn’t have happened in their own country,” he said, adding that the US is now registering a daily death toll of 4,000 people.
“If they can create a vaccine, if their Pfizer factory can manufacture a vaccine, then why do they want to give it to us? They should consume it themselves so they wouldn’t have so many deaths.”
Khamenei said the same applies to the UK, and that he does not trust the US and the UK since they may wish to test out their vaccines on other nations.
The supreme leader also said he has “doubts” about France due to its infected blood scandal that began in the early 1990s.
At the time, Iran was among the recipients of blood supplies from France that later turned out to be infected with HIV. Hundreds of Iranian haemophiliacs were infected by the tainted blood and Iran says it never received compensation.
The supreme leader’s order led to a halt in Iranian Red Crescent Society’s plans to import 150,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that had been secured with the help of philanthropists, the organisation’s spokesman said shortly after the speech.
“The Red Crescent Society will act based on the supreme leader’s remarks as they distinguish right from wrong concerning all issues including importing corona vaccines,” Mohammad Hassan Ghosian told the Tasnim news website.
The Red Crescent Society had previously announced additional plans to buy one million doses of a vaccine from China.
Iran’s government is also trying to secure 16.8 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, a global vaccine effort operating under the World Health Organization.
On Friday, Khamenei praised efforts to manufacture vaccines in Iran, saying they are a source of “pride”.
Iran launched the human trials of its first vaccine candidate, COVIran Barekat, on December 29.
In an effort to boost confidence in the vaccine, the daughter of the head of Setad, a powerful organisation operating under the supreme leader, was the first person to receive a shot.
Iran has several other candidates, all of which it said are expected to clear animal trials before the end of February.