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Thousands volunteer as Iran prepares to launch human trials of homegrown COVID-19 vaccine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows COVID-19 vaccines produced by Iranian experts.

Just hours into the start of a national enrollment program for volunteers, almost 10,000 Iranians signed up to take part in the first phase of the human trials of the homegrown COVID-19 vaccine.

Hassan Jalili, director of the research team in the production of the coronavirus vaccine at the Headquarters for Executing the Order of Imam Khomeini, said on Wednesday that as many as 17,000 people had contacted 4030, the national hotline set up since the first days of coronavirus outbreak in Iran to provide expert consultation and screening, to inquire about the clinical trials and the eligibility requirements.

More than 9,900 volunteers enrolled to participate in the Iranian COVID-19 vaccine trials, he added.

Elaborating on the requirements, Jalili explained that the volunteers should be aged between 18 and 50, of good health and have no history of allergies and coronavirus infection.

"During the first stage, 56 candidates will be selected to receive two shots administered 14 days apart. The results of the first phase will be assessed 28 days later to monitor the vaccine's immune response,” he said.

Jalili hailed the “enormous” and “unparalleled” accomplishments of young Iranian scientists at knowledge-based companies over the past 10 months as part of efforts to produce the Iranian vaccine.

The vaccine was first tested on pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs after the completion of preliminary research work based on the protocols of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Jalili said.

Later tests on monkeys, he added, produced satisfactory results and no side effects.

Iran started the volunteer registration program for phase one of the human trial on Tuesday.

Authorities have assured the Iranian people that efforts to produce domestic vaccines will by no means impede the import of foreign brands, and that they will do their best to procure COVID-19 vaccines from abroad as well. 

The large-scale illegal US sanctions have seriously hampered Iran's efforts to stem the outbreak by blocking the country's access to life-saving medications, vaccines included.

Officials says the sanctions are preventing them from making advance payments to the global COVAX Facility set up to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries.

So far, 1,170,743 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Iran and over 54,000 people have died.

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