EghtesadOnline: A total of 26.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been imported to Iran in 40 shipments from Feb. 3 to Aug. 23, 2021, according to the technical deputy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, Mehrdad Jamal Orounaqi.
The vaccines were imported from Russia, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and China, Fars News Agency Reported.
A total of 20.13 million doses of Sinopharm, 3.22 million AstraZeneca, 2.15 million COVAX, 1.05 million Sputnik V and 125,000 doses of Bharat (COVAXIN) have been imported to Iran so far.
The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines imported by the private sector arrived in Iran from Russia on July 28.
According to Nasser Riahi, chairman of Iranian Pharmaceutical Importers Association, the shipment included 320,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, which was the first batch of a larger order placed by the private sector.
He noted that many more shipments were to arrive in the coming days and weeks.
Cobel Darou, one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies of Iran, was the importer of these vaccines from the Russian drug-maker R-Pharm, ILNA reported.
Earlier this year, the private sector announced that it has signed a deal to import six million doses of Covid-19 vaccines.
“Imports of the vaccines will be financed by business owners, manufacturers and executive managers of companies at the market exchange rate for free vaccination of their workers,” Masoud Khansari, the head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, said then.
“Notably, importers will supply the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis and with the license issued by Health Ministry and the supervision of National Coronavirus Headquarters,” he was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.
Bureaucracy Slowing Down Imports
Bureaucracy is slowing down the import of Covid-19 vaccines into Iran, Khansari told the Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.
Noting that several companies managed to place an order for the purchase of six million doses of Sputnik V and AstraZeneca vaccines and that all large and small companies, even those active in the services sector, agreed to finance over 15,000 billion rials ($58 million) for the import of these vaccines, he said the pro forma invoice of these doses were received from seller companies and sent to the Health Ministry.
“It was vital that the import procedure finalize at a faster pace without common bureaucratic barriers, but unfortunately these bureaucratic complexities blew up the opportunity, since sellers insisted on Iranian government approving the purchases. For a month, the chamber was jostling with Health Ministry to secure the approval letter. We talked almost with all high-ranking officials; all of them either those in the government or in the parliament promised to cooperate but the pro forma invoice was valid for no more than a week,” he said.
“We missed the opportunity to buy a million doses of vaccine due to lack of collaboration. The world faced another wave of Covid-19 in June and most countries limited their exports. TCCIM tried to find another source. This time, importer companies tried to purchase three million doses of AstraZeneca from India on their own credit. But due to India’s worsening Covid crisis, the country banned exports. Credit documents regarding imports from India are still valid and hopefully, the Asian country will lift the ban on imports soon.”
In the meantime, a well-known company has managed to import a significant volume of AstraZeneca vaccines using the government’s subsidized foreign currency at the rate of 42,000 rials per US dollar and give them to the Health Ministry.
“Sadly, Iran’s bureaucratic system is not ready at all for reacting efficiently in the face of emergencies. Somehow, one might say this much of stonewalling was by intent; there’s no reason to think vaccine imports by the private sector won’t endanger the interests of some people,” Khansari concluded.
The new government led by President Ebrahim Raeisi has vowed to place public vaccination on top of its agenda and facilitate imports.