Iran’s President-elect Raisi says quick COVID-19 vaccination to top his plans

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Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi vowed on Tuesday his government would start rapid COVID-19 vaccinations to help relaunch an economy at the epicenter of the pandemic in the Middle East.

“The quickest general vaccination ... will be among our immediate programs from the first day of the government,” Raisi said in remarks carried live by state TV.

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“Domestically produced vaccines, and if necessary those produced abroad (will be obtained) quickly that people will feel at ease and the economy will flourish,” Raisi said in a speech in the holy Shi’ite Muslim city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran.

The government of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani has faced criticism for a slow vaccination drive, which officials have blamed on US sanctions hampering efforts to buy foreign vaccines and on delays in deliveries.

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Iran will focus on using three locally made COVID-19 vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V and a vaccine jointly produced with Cuba, the current government’s spokesman, Ali Rabiei, said earlier on Tuesday. Raisi’s government takes over in early August.

Vaccinations with the COVIran Barakat vaccine, developed by a state-affiliated conglomerate, started this week, Rabiei was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying.

Iran, which has lost 83,217 of its population of 83 million to the virus, launched human trials of COVIran in December and has since started clinical trials of at least three other vaccines.

Rabiei said the Pasteurcovac vaccine, known as Soberana 2 in Cuba, is expected to be licensed for public use this week in Iran.

The joint Iranian-Cuban vaccine has been received by 24,000 people in clinical trials in Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on Twitter. Cuba said the vaccine had proved 62 percent effective with just two of its three doses.

“The domestically produced Sputnik V vaccine will enter general vaccination from next week,” Rabiei was quoted as saying. Iran announced plans in late March to launch domestic production of Sputnik V.

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