Iran starts human trials of its third domestic COVID vaccine

The latest vaccine comes as Iran has imported 1.2 million jabs to inoculate its 80 million population.

Vials of Iranian COVID vaccine candidate are seen during human testing in Tehran, Iran December 29, 2020 [File: Organization of the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order/WANA via Reuters]

Tehran, Iran – Iran has started human trials of Fakhravac, the third domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, named after nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was assassinated in late November near Tehran in an attack Tehran blamed on its regional foe Israel.

Authorities at the time had said a team under Fakhrizadeh was working on a vaccine against the coronavirus, which has killed 61,000 people since it broke out in the country in February 2020.

Fakhravac, previously referred to as the “Martyr Fakhrizadeh” vaccine, was unveiled during a ceremony broadcast live on state television. Defence Minister Amir Hatami, Health Minister Saeed Namaki, and Fakhrizadeh’s family attended the event in Tehran.

The first dose was administered to the scientist’s son, Hamed Fakhrizadeh, who volunteered.

“I must say today with pride that in the next spring, the Islamic Republic of Iran will become one of the most important and best vaccine producers in the world,” the health minister said during the ceremony on Tuesday.

A day earlier, the head of Setad, a powerful organisation operating under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that is in charge of another vaccine project, said the country’s first vaccine production line has begun operation.

Mohammad Mokhber said the line will produce three million doses of COVIran Barekat – the country’s primary vaccine candidate – a month, a capacity that is expected to be boosted to up to 15 million doses per month by the end of the spring.

The Barekat vaccine, which health officials have said is 90-percent effective according to preliminary results, started the second phase of its human trials on Monday, and is expected to soon merge the second and third phases that will see the vaccine being administered to tens of thousands of Iranians.

Meanwhile, a vaccine developed by the Pasteur Institute of Iran in collaboration with Cuba is expected to become the first Iranian-made vaccine to be administered among the population. 100,000 doses of the vaccine were imported earlier this week.

Razi COV-Pars, a vaccine developed by the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, is also undergoing human trials.

More foreign vaccines on the way

While Iran continues efforts to mass-produce local candidates, several foreign vaccines have already been imported and others are expected soon.

Up to 375,000 doses of COVAXIN, developed by India’s Bharat Biotech, are expected on Wednesday while 125,000 doses of the same vaccine were received earlier this month.

With the 410,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V, 250,000 doses of Sinopharm donated by China, and the 100,000 imported from Cuba, Wednesday’s delivery will mark 1.26 million imported jabs.

On Tuesday, President Hassan Rouhani once more condemned harsh US economic sanctions on Iran that he said have hampered efforts to buy vaccines.

However, he said Iran has managed to buy “more than 16 million doses” through COVAX, the global vaccine initiative under the World Health Organisation.

Health Minister Namaki said Tuesday Iran hopes to vaccinate a significant portion of the country’s estimated 1.3 million vulnerable people before Nowruz, the Iranian new year, on March 20.

“But our hope does not lie in these imports, it lies in this national production,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera