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Iran’s Regime Takes People’s Lives Hostage by Not Procuring Covid-19 Vaccine and Blaming It on Sanctions

While Iran’s state-run media and health officials warn of a growing number of Covid-19 fatalities, the regime refuses to procure vaccines to save people’s lives. Instead, it takes people’s lives hostage to achieve its political goal.

The regime continues to play with people’s lives, as the Covid-19 death toll quickly approaches 200,000, based on reports tallied by Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK).

“With one hasty measure, we can most certainly return to where we were. Quarantine restrictions will continue in the coming weeks because conditions in Tehran are orange, and we must trek forward with more caution,” said Alireza Zali, head of the Tehran Covid-19 Task Force on Monday, according to the state-run Hamshahri daily.

When the Covid-19 vaccine became officially available, officials, including the regime’s President Hassan Rouhani, claimed that the United States sanctions prevent Iran from purchasing vaccines.

Yet, when on December 7, Abdolnasser Hemmati, Iran’s Central Bank Chief, blamed sanctions for the regime’s delay in importing Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX payment facility, jointly managed by Geneva-based Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization, Gavi immediately rejected this claim.

Gavi’s spokesperson said there was no “legal barrier” to Iran obtaining vaccines through COVAX, as the U.S. Treasury’s Office on Foreign Assets Control had issued a license covering coronavirus vaccine procurement.

Two days after Gavi rejected the regime’s false claims of sanctions preventing Iran from obtaining the Covid-19 vaccines, Nasser Riahi, the head of the Iranian Drug Importers’ Union, said there is no problem in transferring currency for the import of the vaccine and other pharmaceutical items to Iran.

Iran regime’s vaccination scam - December 2020

“It is possible to transfer currency to buy the Covid-19 vaccine and other medicines, and the claims [that the regime’s officials] made in this case are not true,” Riahi underlined in an interview with the state-run Sepid daily on December 9.

In fact, on April 6, the U.S. Department of State released a factsheet, debunking the regime’s bogus claims of the medicine being sanctioned.

“U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran. The United States maintains broad authorizations that allow for the sale of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices by U.S. persons or from the United States to Iran,” read the factsheet in part.

While the international community rejected the regime’s efforts in blaming sanctions, the Iranian people also took to social media and called out the regime’s deception. The hashtag #واکسن-بخرید or “buy vaccine,” became a national trend in Iran, with people portraying their absolute mistrust in the regime and hatred toward the establishment.

The state-run Aftab-e Yazd daily on December 14 published an interview with Mohammad Reza Mahboubfar, a member of the Anti-Coronavirus Task Force, underlining that “the root of the people’s distrust lies not only with the Covid-19 crisis but also with many other social issues in the country.”

Mahboubfar also acknowledged the regime’s institutionalized corruption. “The Covid-19 vaccine has been imported illegally from accredited countries, and it is passed among elites, officials and their family members,” Aftab-e Yazd quoted Mahboubfar as saying.

The state-run Aftab-e Yazd daily's interview with Mohammad Reza Mahboubfar, a member of the Anti-Coronavirus Task Force - December 14, 2020

The state-run Aftab-e Yazd daily’s interview with Mohammad Reza Mahboubfar, a member of the Anti-Coronavirus Task Force – December 14, 2020

When the regime’s efforts of blaming U.S. sanctions failed, Rouhani said domestic and foreign vaccines are on the way. Meanwhile, Hemmati acknowledged the government had allocated only 200 million Euros to provide vaccines for 8.4 million people, one-tenth of Iran’s 80 million population.

Unlike other governments, the ruling theocracy has not said what vaccine it will purchase and what country it will procure it from.

The authorities are merely dragging their feet in purchasing vaccines for three reasons.

  1. The regime’s so-called domestic vaccine is being produced by the “Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive,” a financial institution under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s control. Importing vaccines from credible international companies hinders the regime’s medicine mafia from receiving a considerable profit.
    “The Food and Drug Administration is under heavy pressure to approve domestically produced vaccines and anti-coronavirus medicines. Because obtaining approval from the Ministry of Health means a huge profit for the drug owner,” wrote the state-run Jahan-e Sanat daily on December 14, in this regard.
  2. The regime also has taken people’s lives hostage, using the vaccine as leverage to lift sanctions and blackmail the international community. While it has the money and means to provide vaccine for all Iranian population, the regime wastes time.
  3. Another reason is the regime’s intention to continue using Covid-19, or what Khamenei has called a divine “blessing” and test, to quell the restive Iranian society. Three significant protests between 2017 and November 2019 rattled the regime’s foundation. So, the regime covered up Covid-19’s existence and tried to use the virus and its casualties as a barrier against an uprising.

As the regime’s state-run media and officials have acknowledged, continuing this policy and not procuring vaccines while other governments purchase them will only increase social anger.

As Mahboubfar warned, “If the other countries start the vaccination while we are still waiting, society’s tolerance will end.”