Exclusive: Document Reveals Major Vaccination Plan Was Aborted By Khamenei's Order
Iran International TV has been given exclusive access to a document that says the Iranian Ministry of Health had made all necessary preparations for administering foreign-made COVID-19 vaccines before Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s ban on importing US and British vaccine aborted the ministry's plans.
According to the document, Khamenei declared his ban on foreign vaccines while the ministry had already planned the funding, importing, stockpiling and administering of the vaccines based on World Health Organization's standards. The document entitled "National plan for developing and administering COVID-19 vaccines" was a 75-page plan that was first prepared on January 2.
The responsibility for implementing the national vaccination was handed over to the National Coordination Committee that is made of representatives from various government institutions.
Nonetheless, on January 8, a week after the document was released, Khamenei intervened in the matter and said in a public speech that importing vaccines from the United States and Europe was prohibited.
The unexpected order effectively disrupted the ministry's plan that was compliant with the global protocols about public vaccination. At the time, the ministry was considering to import the vaccine developed by the US company Pfizer that was one of two main choices offered by WHO’s Covax mechanism.
Clinical tests have proved the Pfizer vaccine to be 95 percent effective. Tens of European and Asian countries, as well as some of Iran's neighbors have been purchasing and administering it during the past weeks.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has approved the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine.
The document at the disposal of the Iran International TV (IITV), also revealed that funds were allocated to provide the vaccine initially for 10 percent of the Iranian population, that is 16 million doses of the vaccine for two rounds of vaccination for 8 million people.
Earlier, Iran's Health Minister Saeed Namaki had said that 16,800,000 doses of the vaccine were to be provided, and Central Bank Governor Abdalnasser Hemmati confirmed that a down payment had already been made.
But with Khamenei's order, it is still not clear if any Western vaccine approved by WHO will be delivered to Iran.
Khamenei's order has led to a lot of dissatisfaction among the Iranian population. Many posts on social media charged that Khamenei and his aides, including President Hassan Rouhani have already been injected with the Pfizer vaccine.
Recent images and state TV footages of the president who has not been wearing face masks in public gatherings gave further rise to the rumors that Iranian leaders have already used the best vaccines available while banning the same for the public. Outside Iran, the same complaint was raised by Iranian opposition and human rights watchdogs.
Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO's Health Emergency Programs has said that the WHO has repeatedly called on state officials not to politicize issues relating to the pandemic. He insisted that the vaccination should not be politicized either.
Meanwhile, international human rights watchdog Amnesty International has characterized the ban imposed by Khamenei on major vaccine brands as "playing with the lives of millions of people."