Human Rights Watch warned that Iranian authorities’ prohibition on obtaining vaccinations made in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as a lack of transparency and mismanagement, are compounding the already terrible consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak in Iran.
Iran is witnessing the pandemic’s “fifth wave,”
According to the government’s official statistics, Iran is witnessing the pandemic’s “fifth wave,” with a daily death toll of at least 655 and a total of around 100,000 deaths as of August 18.
Iranian opposition report daily
Iranian authorities should step up their efforts to respond effectively to the crisis, including mobilising all available resources to procure lifesaving vaccines and communicating and implementing effective and clear vaccination and other safety guidelines in a transparent manner.
Iranians are outraged at the authorities
“Iranians are outraged at the authorities’ incompetence and lack of transparency in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, which is killing an Iranian every few minutes,” said Tara Sepehri Far, a Human Rights Watch Iran researcher. “Public trust is critical in managing the public health crisis, but the Iranian government’s track record of failure is repeating itself.”
The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) states that everyone has the right to “the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” Iran is a signatory to the ICESCR. The government is bound by the treaty to take steps to satisfy the right to health “individually and through international assistance and cooperation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources.”
The delayed rollout of the vaccination programme
It is expressly essential to take appropriate measures for “epidemic, endemic, occupational, and other diseases prevention, treatment, and control.” Epidemic control necessitates, among other things, “the implementation or enhancement of immunisation programmes and other infectious disease control strategies.”
Iranian officials have blamed sanctions and difficulties in importing vaccinations, as well as each other, for the delayed rollout of the vaccination programme, but have failed to provide concrete data to back up their assertions.
Khamenei band import of vaccine
In a speech on January 8, 2021, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, stated that the “import of [the Covid-19] vaccines made in the United States and the United Kingdom is prohibited.” Khamenei asserted that vaccinations manufactured in the United States or the United Kingdom are “completely untrustworthy” in a tweet that was hidden by Twitter owing to a violation of the company’s “Covid-19 misleading information policy.” It’s not impossible that they’d wish to pollute other countries.”
This policy has had major consequences for Iranians’ right to health and access to life-saving immunizations. The head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Dr. Mohammad Hassan Ghousian Moghadam, announced on January 9 that preparations to import 150,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine given by a US charity had been cancelled.
Covid-19 vaccinations are in poor supply
In Iran, Covid-19 vaccinations are in poor supply. Only 5,063,519 persons out of an 85 million population have gotten the needed two doses of the Covid-19 vaccination, according to the Health Ministry’s figures as of August 18.
Iranian authorities have prioritised and publicly pushed the manufacture of a homegrown vaccine – COVIran Barekat – in which they have apparently committed significant government resources over the last year. However, neither the Iranian government nor the state-owned business that manufactures the vaccination has provided definitive information on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. This lack of transparency has been criticised by experts. Furthermore, it appears that the production is running behind schedule.
Widespread criticism of the government’s response
Faced with a worsening health problem and widespread criticism of the government’s response, the government may lift the ban on vaccines made in the United States and the United Kingdom. President Ebrahim Raisi, who had initially backed Ayatollah Khamenei’s ban, instructed the government to fund resources to import vaccines on August 10. Ayatollah Khamenei declared the same day that vaccines should be obtained in “every possible way.”
Human Rights Watch recommended that the Iranian government publish all procurement contracts as well as an up-to-date vaccination supply and delivery index including price details, delivery dates, and the number of doses.