Iran has prohibited the import of American and British Covid-19 vaccines. The order was given to the government in Tehran by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"I have no confidence in them," explained Khamenei in a live televised speech. "Sometimes they want to test vaccines on other nations… If the Americans were able to produce a vaccine, they would not have such a coronavirus fiasco in their own country."
Khamenei added that he does not trust the French vaccine either, due to France's infected blood scandal in the 1980s and 1990s. "But if they [the Iranian authorities] want to import vaccines from a reliable place, there is no problem."
So far three major vaccines have been made available, with many countries around the world rolling them out, especially to key workers and the most vulnerable due to age and health. The German BioNTech vaccine, which was co-produced by the US Pfizer Company; the Moderna vaccine also from the US; and the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine from Britain, which is regarded as the cheaper option of the three.
Iran has been the worst hit by the pandemic among regional countries. It began human trials of its first domestic vaccine late last month, although some citizens have expressed scepticism about its effectiveness. Iran's Red Crescent Society has also stated that, separately from the government, it is planning to import a Chinese vaccine.
The Iranian leader also reiterated calls for the lifting of sanctions imposed on the country, which have had an affect not only on the authorities and officials but also the Iranian people and their access to medicine and medical equipment. "The Western front and the enemies are obliged to end this malicious move and immediately stop it," he insisted.
However, Iranian officials said last month that the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control had approved the transfer of funds to a Swiss bank for COVAX, an international programme to facilitate the equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.