TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has returned 820,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines donated by Poland because they were manufactured in the United States, state TV reported Monday.
TV quoted Mohammad Hashemi, an official in the country’s Health Ministry, as saying that Poland donated about a million doses of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine to Iran.
“But when the vaccines arrived in Iran, we found out that 820,000 doses of them which were imported from Poland were from the United States,” he said.
Hashemi said “after coordination with the Polish ambassador to Iran, it was decided that the vaccines would be returned.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, in 2020 rejected any possibility of American or British vaccines entering the country, calling them “forbidden.”
Iran now only imports Western vaccines that are not produced in the US or Britain.
Iran is struggling with its sixth wave of coronavirus infections and authorities say the aggressive omicron variant is now dominant in the country.
With more than 135,000 total deaths from COVID-19, according to official numbers, Iran has the highest national death toll in the Middle East. It says it has vaccinated some 90% of its population above age 18 with two shots, although only 37% of that group has had a third shot.
Iran has relied on Sinopharm, the state-backed Chinese vaccine, but offers citizens a smorgasbord of other shots to choose from — Oxford-AstraZeneca, Russia’s Sputnik V, Indian firm Bharat’s Covaxin and its homegrown COVIran Barekat shot.
AstraZeneca’s shot, developed with Oxford University, makes up a substantial amount of Iran’s inoculations.