Tehran, Iran – Iran says its primary vaccine candidate against COVID-19 is 90-percent effective based on preliminary results.
Mohamad Reza Salehi, who heads clinical trials for COVIran Barekat, told the government-funded Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that immunogenicity tests on 35 of the volunteers who took part in the first phase of human trials of the vaccine showed better-than-expected results.
“Preliminary results show that about 90 percent of the people who received two doses of the vaccine exhibit evidence of immunity,” he said, adding that more testing is needed for more accurate results.
Officials had previously said Barekat is “100 percent effective” against the COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.
The first of the total of 56 volunteers who were accepted for the first phase of the vaccine’s human trials were injected in late December, and by earlier this month all volunteers had received both doses.
The second phase of human trials is expected to start before the end of the current Iranian calendar year on March 20 and last through May.
“Most probably the second and third phases will be merged together and preliminary reports will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration half-way through this stage,” Salehi said.
The Barekat vaccine is being managed by Setad, a powerful state-run organisation under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But it is not the country’s only hopeful candidate against COVID-19.
Earlier this month, officials said a second locally manufactured vaccine, called Razi COV-Pars, will soon begin human trials.
An mRNA vaccine developed by the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, Iran’s oldest vaccine institute with a history of almost 100 years, will be tested on 133 volunteers in its first phase.
Officials hope to begin public vaccinations with locally made candidates in the next few months.
At the same time, Iran is trying to import a variety of foreign vaccines, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, China’s Sinopharm, and India’s Bharat.
So far, the only vaccine to have actually been approved and administered to Iranians has been Russia’s Sputnik V, which was imported earlier this month in limited doses and given to front-line healthcare workers.
Iran has suffered close to 60,000 deaths in three COVID-19 waves and officials are now warning that a fourth wave may be coming.