Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said last week that the country’s medical facilities were not allowed to import coronavirus vaccines made in the US or the UK, which led to the cancellation of an Iranian Red Crescent plan to distribute 150,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, paid for by American philanthropists. It comes after weeks of officials claiming that sanctions prevented them getting the vaccine, when the global coronavirus vaccine distributor, COVAX, said there were no barriers at all.
There is no plan to mitigate this loss, which could have saved 75,000 people and reduced transmission in people they came into contact with, because although the Health Ministry said that a domestic vaccine is being developed, pharmacists have described it as a “joke”, especially in comparison with existing vaccines.
Meanwhile, the people get no support from the regime. Lockdowns are not set, sick people aren’t paid to stay home, non-essential workers aren’t being furloughed. Iranians are being as careful as they can, but they cannot choose to stay home if it means starving to death. It does not help that the regime is also concealing the true extent of the pandemic, reporting just 56,000 deaths, when the opposition have logged over 200,000, or that it denied the virus was in Iran at all for the first two months in order to boost participation in the regime parades and elections.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) wrote: “Khamenei’s ban on foreign vaccines should have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tehran was never actually serious about wanting to use sanctions relief in order to fight coronavirus… Khamenei has sent a clear message that his regime does not actually want the proffered foreign assistance in managing the public health crisis. By extension, he has confirmed that the clerical regime only wanted access to foreign capital as a way of shoring up its own power and was all too willing to use the pandemic in order to get it.”
The regime does not need any help getting money for the vaccine. Khamenei has hundreds of billions of dollars at his disposal, but it never gets used to help the Iranian people because the regime’s sole objective is to keep power at all costs. In this instance, it means subjecting the Iranian people to a pandemic so that they are too scared to go to the streets and overthrow the regime, but even the state-run media have admitted that this will not work for much longer.