Twitter on Friday removed a tweet by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that suggested COVID-19 vaccines made in the US and Britain could be designed to “contaminate” people.
Khamenei banned the import of COVID-19 vaccines from the US and Britain on Friday, saying he does not trust the two Western countries.
“The import of American and British vaccines is prohibited… It is not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations… French vaccines are not trustworthy either,” Khamenei said in remarks broadcast on state television and also posted on his social media accounts.
I call on @Jack to suspend @khamenei_ir account for spreading dangerous lies about COVID-19. He has banned Iranians from @Twitter but spreads lies on the same platform about vaccines. His posts MUST have a warning label, at least.— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) January 8, 2021
Please retweet this. pic.twitter.com/XCxDXK7qBw
Twitter has taken down the tweets on Khamenei’s English and Arabic accounts about vaccines made in the US and Britain, saying they were in violation of the social media platform’s rules. But the same tweet has remained available on Khamenei’s Persian account.
Shortly after Khamenei’s speech, Iran’s Red Crescent Society canceled a shipment of 150,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that had been donated by US philanthropists.
“The Red Crescent Society will act on the words of the supreme leader; his words on any issue, including the import of COVID-19 vaccines, are the deciding factor,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Mohammad-Hassan Ghosiyan, spokesman for the Red Crescent Society, as saying.
Iran will instead look to import vaccines from non-Western countries – possibly Russia, China or India – Ghosiyan said.
Khamenei’s ban on the import of vaccines from the US and Britain sparked criticism among Iranians online, with critics saying the supreme leader lacks the expertise to have the final say on the matter.
Iranians had recently launched an online campaign urging the country’s authorities to not delay the purchase of vaccines from abroad.
Coronavirus has killed nearly 55,000 out of more than 1.2 million people infected in Iran, according to the ministry of health.