In a Shargh newspaper report on why vaccinations have picked up recently after having stalled under the Rouhani administration, Majles representative Ali Tajernia says that Rouhani’s health minister, Saeed Namaki, was against importing vaccines because mass amounts of the locally produced Barekat vaccine (officially, COVIran Barekat) had already been paid for in advance. The MP said that the producer of the vaccine, the state-owned Shifa Pharmed company, “received 200 thousand tomans for every dose of the vaccine, and if we want to do the math for 120 million vaccines,” Shifa Pharmed would have received about $5.7 billion. Meanwhile, according to Tajernia, not even 4 million Barekat doses have been produced to date.

Shargh’s requests for comment from Shifa Pharmed, the Pasteur Institute—co-creator of the Pasturecovac vaccine, whose production has been even more minimal—and Actoverco—local producer of Russian-formulated Sputnik vaccine doses, all apparently destined for foreign distribution—were met with silence. A physician identified as Dr. Simin Kazemi told Shargh, “Issues such as the production of multiple domestic vaccines, often of uncertain efficacy . . . the struggle over the importation of vaccines by certain factions, and entrusting the importation of vaccines to private corporations, all of that sent a message to society that the health system here is not prioritizing public health, and that those in charge of society and its health are looking out for their own personal and factional interests over those of the people.”

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