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Iran to start COVID-19 vaccinations within week, says Rouhani

Islamic Republic has Mideast’s deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, with over 58,000 dead out of over 1.4 million infections

A medic prepares the Coviran coronavirus vaccine produced by Shifa Pharmed, part of a state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate, for injection at a ceremony in Tehran, Iran, December 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Aref Taherkenareh)
A medic prepares the Coviran coronavirus vaccine produced by Shifa Pharmed, part of a state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate, for injection at a ceremony in Tehran, Iran, December 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Aref Taherkenareh)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran will kick off its coronavirus vaccination campaign within a week, President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday, after the country received its first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V shots.

The Islamic Republic is fighting the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, with over 58,000 lives lost out of more than 1.4 million cases of infection.

Iran has bought two million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told AFP.

The first batch arrived in the country on Thursday, and the country is scheduled to receive two more batches by February 28.

“Vaccinations will start this very week; this is a real cause for celebration,” Rouhani told a televised meeting of Iran’s COVID-19 taskforce.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2021. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

He did not give a specific date, only saying that the program would begin before next Wednesday, which marks the 42nd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution.

Health workers would be the first to get the jabs, followed by the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, Rouhani said.

The president expressed hope that the first three categories would be inoculated before the Persian New Year on March 21.

Russia registered the Sputnik V vaccine — named after the Soviet-era satellite — in August last year, before the start of large-scale clinical trials.

In addition to the Russian shot, Iran is expecting to receive 4.2 million doses of a vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca in February.

They were purchased via Covax, the mechanism for the equitable distribution of vaccines established by the UN World Health Organization.

Iran started clinical trials of one of its own vaccines in late December, and according to Rouhani, they may become available by early summer.

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