Iran’s Khamenei gets 1st dose of home-made COVID vaccine

Supreme leader touts the 'great, prestigious capability' of the Coviran Barekat shot; Tehran hasn't published data on its efficacy

In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei receives a shot of the Coviran Barekat COVID-19 vaccine in Tehran, Iran, June 25, 2021. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday received the first dose of a domestically produced coronavirus vaccine, his social media announced, as the country battles the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak.

The 81-year-old cleric’s Twitter feed published a video it said showed him “receiving the first dose of the #IranianCovidVaccine that has been developed by young Iranian scientists.”

The footage shows him wearing a surgical mask and a black turban, sitting under a picture of the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, as two male medics tend to him, injecting him in the left arm.

State television broadcast the same scene, saying Khamenei had received a single dose of the Coviran Barekat shot, developed by a powerful state-owned foundation known as Setad. The first study of the safety and effectiveness began in late December.

The emergency authorization was approved last week after Iran, which is the worst-hit nation in the Middle East, faced problems importing enough vaccines.

Iran has not published data about efficacy of the vaccine, but claims that people who get the home-made shot have about 85% immunity to the deadly virus.

Iran has also said it is working on a vaccine with cooperation from a foreign country. Iranian authorities said that another vaccine, produced jointly by Iran and Cuba, will join the country’s vaccine package in coming days.

The Islamic Republic is attempting to make up for a lack of vaccines and providing second shots to those who have already received a first, on a voluntary basis.

Strangled by US sanctions that have made it difficult to make money transfers to foreign firms, Tehran says it is struggling to import vaccines for its 83 million population.

In early January, Khamenei banned imports of UK- and US-produced vaccines, saying they could “contaminate” the country.

In another tweet on his English-language Twitter feed on Friday, he said he was “truly grateful to all those who used their knowledge & experience & made scientific & practical efforts to provide the country with such a great, prestigious capability.”

In this photo released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on March 16, 2021, Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami shows a vial of the homegrown Fakhra coronavirus vaccine at a staged event in Tehran, Iran. The vaccine is named after chief Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, shown in a banner at rear, who was killed in a November 2021 attack that Iran blamed on Israel. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Iran has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 83,500 people among 3.1 million infected, according to official figures widely seen as understating the toll.

The health ministry says more than 4.4 million of Iran’s 83 million people have received a first vaccine dose since an inoculation campaign began in February.

Just over a quarter of those — nearly 1.13 million — have received the two shots necessary for the vaccine to be fully effective.

Iran is running clinical trials on four other vaccines against COVID-19.

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