The Covid-19 pandemic has reached almost all corners of the world. Not every country has dealt with it that well, but Iran must be one of the worst.
Coronavirus death toll
Over 209,200 Iranians have died from the disease so far according to the opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s (NCRI), and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran), and the country has had one of the highest fatality rates in the world.
— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) January 31, 2021
Now, many countries are relying on vaccinating their populations with several rapidly developed vaccines reported to be quite effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms of the disease.
Iran is one of the few countries not to have developed a credible vaccine plan, something that will see many more thousands of Iranian sick and dying and alienate the population even more.
The Iranian regime welcomed the arrival of the pandemic
When the virus arrived in Iran, it was met almost with relief by the mullahs. The virus soon swept through Iran’s urban centers, overwhelming health facilities.
As far as the regime was concerned this dampened down public protests which had been mounting in intensity and frequency up to then. The response to the severity of the virus by the regime was ineffective and full of excuses and lies.
The excuses and fabrications continued once it was obvious that vaccines were becoming available. All that was needed was for the government to arrange contracts with vaccine providers and develop a national plan to vaccinate the population.
The first lie was that sanctions on Iran would mean they would not be allowed to purchase them. This was swiftly rebutted by COVAX, the organization responsible for distributing vaccines to the less affluent countries.
Importing American and British vaccines band by Khamenei
Then the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei decided to ban the very vaccines that had the most credibility – Pfizer and Moderna with 95% efficacy and AstraZeneca with a little less. The rationale was ludicrous.
“Importing American and British vaccines to the country is forbidden. I have also told the authorities. If Pfizer is able to produce a vaccine, why do they want to give it to us? They are having mass casualties,” said Khamenei
The order to ban foreign vaccines was met with dismay by public health figures in Iran. Amnesty International said it would deprive Iranians’ right to life. An expected fourth wave of the disease seems likely to be the result of a failure to vaccinate.
“The fourth peak is also expected to be much more intense than the previous ones,” said Majid Mokhtari, a member of the National Covid-19 Task Force (NCTF). The only solution “is the public vaccination,” according to State television on January 27th.
Radio Germany: Russian Sputnik vaccine licensed in #Iran! Licensing of emergency use of this vaccine is while the vaccine is still awaiting international approval #COVID19 #HumanRights pic.twitter.com/MiARl3ZNFO
— Saeed Morad (@saeedseydmorad1) January 29, 2021
Russian Sputnik vaccine would be imported instead of an approved one
Finally, the regime relented, but rather than arranging the purchase of already internationally approved vaccines, the regime’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the Russian Sputnik vaccine would be imported instead. “The first shipments of the Russian vaccine will arrive in the country before February 10,” announced Mahmoud Vaezi, Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff.
No-one really knows whether the Iranian regime really means what it says and then there are doubts over the safety and effectiveness of the Russian vaccine anyway. The Russian vaccine trials were rushed through under orders from the Kremlin and the Sputnik vaccine has not been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
One member of the National Coronavirus Task Force, Minoo Mohraz, said on January 28th: “as a member of the medical staff, I would not inject this vaccine.”
Khamenei has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the virus and has even welcomed it.
Statements from the Supreme Leader include:
- It is “a divine blessing”
- It is a “test”
- It is a “blessing”
- “It’s not a big deal”
The regime is playing with fire over its Covid response and vaccine plans. Iranians are not stupid and can easily compare the way their own government is handling the situation compared to other countries around the world. A regime that so far has allowed over 200,000 of its citizens to die and has no credible plans for protecting the most vulnerable is seen as despicable. “The continuation of the coronavirus outbreak will initiate new waves of social and political changes,” said Alireza Zali, the head of the Task Force.
So, although the regime thought it was doing itself a favor by welcoming the virus into Iran, in order to quell political activism and protest, in actual fact they are just bottling up resentment so much that soon it will burst and hopefully sweep the mullahs into oblivion.
Even the state-run Jomhuri-e Eslami daily can predict what could happen when they report: “We should fear the day when people’s patience ends, and they overrun the regime.”
The abridged version of an article written by Shamsi Saadati for the NCRI.