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How Iran developed its own COVID-19 vaccines

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)
This handout picture shows a vial of the locally-made COVIran Barekat vaccine for COVID-19, in Tehran, Iran, on June 25, 2021. (By AFP)

Facing a series of inhumane sanctions imposed by the United States, the Iranian government has mostly relied on home-grown capacities to tackle one of the harshest outbreaks of the COVID-19 disease in the Middle East. The country, which has been subjected to four decades of sanctions, has now joined little few countries in making its own COVID-19 vaccine and is developing several home-made jabs. Earlier this month, Iran approved its flagship COVIran Barekat vaccine for emergency use.

The home-made coronavirus vaccines produced by Iran’s scientists are “a great achievement,” Ehsan Mohebbi, senior vice president for international business development at Tadbir Group, said in an interview with Press TV’s Spotlight program on Tuesday.

He said the US economic sanctions against Iran during the pandemic helped Iranians to grow self-reliant and creative.

“Terrorism is not just about killing innocent people in a country, which of course the United States is an expert on that. We have more other types of terrorism, more dangerous, more inhumane, which is economic terrorism,” Mohebbi said.

“Economic terrorism in the coronavirus pandemic made serious limitations on Iran and affected our people. Coronavirus ravages the world sparing no nation and even the largest economy in the world, the United States, which considers itself a superpower, needs help from other countries to fight the coronavirus,” he said.

“We can remember the early days of coronavirus in our country. The United States blocked all of our assets in other countries. We couldn’t buy hospital equipment, not even a ventilator or a box of masks. They made serious sanctions on us, but, also with all that heavy sanctions which they called maximum pressure we believed in ourselves. We activated our internal capacity, we relied on our scientists and with this big achievement, we joined six countries of vaccine creators in the world,” he added.

Mohebbi further hailed the development of home-made COVID-19 vaccines as “a great achievement” not only for Iran but the entire Muslim world, stressing that the main lesson is that countries under sanctions should never give up and they should believe in their own capabilities.

He went on to say that Iran has great scientists, who worked hard round the clock to develop these vaccines despite all the limitations they faced.

Mohebbi pointed out that the United States has blocked Iran's assets in certain countries, and prevented all countries from cooperating with Iran or providing knowledge to help it fight the pandemic.

However, he said, Iran moved on and relied on its scientists, and thanks to such resistance, the US “maximum pressure” campaign against the country failed.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Mohebbi said the fact that Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has received the Iranian vaccine has a very important lesson for everyone, which is “we should reach independence in various subjects.”

Mohebbi also criticized the Group of Seven major industrialized countries for not providing other affected nations with vaccines, saying their claims that they have provided billions of vaccines to poor countries is just a “show-off.”

He also gave assurances that Iran will provide other countries with assistance and will start supplying other countries with vaccines as soon as its own population is immunized.

Meanwhile, Hassan Jalili, manager of COVIran Barekat Vaccine Project, the other panelist on the program, said that the United States sanctions against Iran slowed down the process of developing vaccines by the country but never stopped it from achieving its goal.

He explained that in order to conduct the quality test, Iran needed certain kits which did not exist inside the country, and given the difficulties of obtaining them from abroad, they had to be manufactured domestically.

“We studied the methods used for remanufacturing the kits and by making use of the heath protocols, we developed those methods. Therefore, the sanctions did not stop us. Perhaps the sanctions slowed down the process but there was another feature with regard to these sanctions. Despite the hardships that we had, we managed to produce many products domestically and that developed our knowledge and that led to indigenizing these sciences in these fields,” he said.

“We had to acquire advanced knowledge and in order to carry out the tests we had to equip ourselves with advanced knowledge and we did so. The production and development of vaccines brought about other achievements for the country as well. It deepened many applied scientific disciplines and developed them,” he added.   

He further said the fact that some wealthy countries have received the major portion of vaccines while many other countries still do not have the ability to vaccinate even a small portion of their population is far from an ideal solution to curtail the pandemic.

He also pointed to the new variants of the disease, which are spreading across the world, stressing that if the world wants to counter this pandemic, the population in each and every country needs to be vaccinated; otherwise, there is going to be more variants.

“So if vaccines are produced, it should be provided to all people and sufficient amount of vaccine must be produced so the whole world would get rid of this virus,” he said.   

Jalili also noted that besides the COVIran Barekat Vaccine, which has received the emergency use authorization of the Health Ministry, several others are in pre-clinical trial stages.

The Iranian Health Ministry has also approved a second COVID-19 vaccine developed and manufactured inside the country for emergency use. The Pasteur vaccine has been developed as part of a joint experiment with Cuban scientists.

The approvals come as the government seeks to accelerate its inoculation program against the coronavirus some six months after it began using supplies from other countries.

Nearly six million shots have been delivered to the elderly and frontline health workers in Iran, of which nearly one million have gone to people receiving a second dose for better protection against the disease.

Government authorities expect that the number of vaccinations would reach 13 million in mid-August.

Iran has three other coronavirus vaccine candidates, including two being developed by scientists in the country’s Armed Forces and one by the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, an established pharmaceutical company run by the government.

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