Iran spurns over 800,000 donated COVID shots because they are made in US

State media reports Tehran sent AstraZeneca doses back to Poland due to 2020 decree by supreme leader to not allow any American- or British-made vaccines into the country

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine clinic bus at the Grand Bazaar of Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine clinic bus at the Grand Bazaar of Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

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.

Clerics burn representations of the U.S. flag during the annual rally commemorating the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution in Azadi (freedom) Square in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

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.

Body of a Covid-19 victim is shrouded and prepared to transfer for burial at Behesht-e-Masoumeh cemetery just outside the city of Qom, some 80 miles (125 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

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.

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