Iran receives first AstraZeneca doses through COVAX

Iran belatedly takes delivery of 700,800 AstraZeneca doses as its vaccination programme lags and cases rise.

The first shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines landed in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport on Monday night [File: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg]

Tehran, Iran – Some 700,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been delivered to Iran as part of its purchase of millions of doses through the COVAX initiative.

As confirmed by an Iranian official and the United Nations’ UNICEF, which handled delivery, the first shipment landed in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport Monday night and included 700,800 doses of the vaccine.

The delivered doses were manufactured by South Korea’s SK-Bio Institute.

“By the end of May, 3.6 million doses of the 16.8 million doses purchased through COVAX will be delivered to Iran,” said Kianush Janahpur, spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, in a tweet.

Iran, which previously said it purchased 4.2 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine initiative, expected them before Nowruz, the Iranian new year, on March 20.

“Achieving this important milestone aimed at ensuring the global goal of equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the world through COVAX facility is the key priority for WHO and partners,” UNICEF said in a press release after delivering the vaccines.

Iran has now received more than 1.7 million doses of foreign vaccines and also imported 500,000 of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. It has received a donation of 250,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm jab, taken delivery of 125,000 doses from India’s COVAXIN, and 100,000 doses of its joint vaccine with Cuba.

Iran also has three domestic vaccines undergoing various phases of human trials, with mass production expected to start by the end of spring.

The COVAX initiative is co-led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

‘Major wave’

So far, less than 1 percent of Iran’s more than 80 million-strong population has been vaccinated as the government has fallen behind its projected schedule to give at least one jab to an estimated 1.3 million vulnerable Iranians.

This is while a lack of control over millions of trips and in-person visits made during the two-week Nowruz holidays meant the country is now facing a fourth major wave of infections, which could be more dangerous than previous waves as the coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom is now also circulating the country.

The capital Tehran was declared a “red” zone in a colour-coded scale denoting the severity of outbreaks again on Monday after months of being classified “orange” or lower.

Iran has so far recorded more than 63,000 deaths and close to two million infections.

Source: Al Jazeera