Tehran, Iran – Iran has launched its vaccination programme against COVID-19 with Russia’s Sputnik V.
By order of President Hassan Rouhani, front-line healthcare workers are the first to receive the vaccine on Tuesday.
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However, the son of Minister of Health Saeed Namaki, Parsa Namaki, who is not a health professional, became the first recipient of the vaccine in an effort to quell public distrust towards the Russian jab.
Last week, news that Iran approved Sputnik V for emergency use sparked a vaccine debate in the country that even pitted top health officials against each other in a standoff over the safety of the Russian shot.
“To the dismay of many who can’t bear to see it, we will give the vaccines to our own families so everyone will know we consider people’s health above our own,” the health minister said on TV at the time.
Parsa Namaki told the president on Tuesday, “Father wanted to test the vaccine on himself but I really insisted so he let me do it,” after he received the vaccine during a live conference call that was also aired by state television.
Rouhani said he is also ready to take the vaccine to show people that any vaccine officially approved in Iran is trustworthy.
Last week, peer-reviewed results from Sputnik V’s phase-three trials published in The Lancet journal showed the vaccine is 91.6-percent effective against COVID-19.
‘Largest vaccine production’
Iran received its first shipment of 10,000 doses of Sputnik V last week and two more shipments are expected before the end of the month. Five million doses of the Russian vaccine will be delivered overall, according to officials.
The vaccination programme started one day before the 42nd anniversary of Iran’s 1979 revolution.
It also comes as the country is soon expected to start human trials on its second locally manufactured COVID-19 vaccine, Razi COV-Pars.
Iran’s primary vaccine candidate, COVIran Barekat, started human trials in late December and is expected to publish initial results in less than a month.
In a confidence-boosting measure, the first dose of the Barekat vaccine was also given to the daughter of the head of Setad, the powerful organisation under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that is in charge of producing the vaccine.
On Monday, Hassan Jalili, who heads vaccine development at Setad, said the organisation is building “the largest vaccine production site in the Middle East” and expects to produce 10 million doses a month by early spring.