EghtesadOnline: One hundred million doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be imported by the end of 2021 as per contracts signed with international manufacturers, Nasser Riahi, the chairman of Iranian Pharmaceutical Importers Association, told IRNA on Sunday.
More than 28 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been imported so far, according to the technical deputy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
“The imported shipments include 22.35 million doses of Sinopharm China in 23 shipments, 2.91 million doses of AstraZeneca from Japan in three shipments, 1.45 million doses of COVAX from Italy in a single shipment, 1.04 million doses of Sputnik V from Russia in the form of 11 shipments, 700,800 doses of COVAX from South Korea, 315,000 doses of AstraZeneca from Russia in a single shipment and 125,000 doses of Bharat [COVAXIN] from India in a single shipment. In total, imports stand at 28.89 million doses in the form of 41 shipments till date,” Mehrdad Jamal Orounaqi was also quoted as saying by IRIB News on Aug. 26.
Riahi, who is a private sector representative, urged the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, which is a vaccine-sharing program coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization, to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines for poor and middle-income countries.
Iran’s share of COVAX-supplied doses is estimated to stand at 16.8 million for 25% of the population.
“Iran needs to purchase vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna supplied by the COVAX via the World Health Organization. The country makes financial payments to the WHO that pays the vaccine manufacturers,” he said.
“Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are ready to send 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Iran each but such imports might take months due to restrictions imposed over temperature requirements for shipping and storage.”
Riahi noted that contracts were signed for importing 30-50 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine from Russia but the neighboring country failed to fully deliver on its promises.
“Fifty million doses of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine are expected to be imported from China, half of which has been received so far. Vaccine imports from South Korea and China will continue. A part of Bharat Biotech’s vaccines scheduled to be purchased from India failed due to certain problems while the import of AstraZeneca vaccines are continuing from different countries,” he said.
Noting that the private sector is not currently importing vaccines, Riahi said private sector companies are ready to import vaccines on a not-for-profit basis and with the license issued by the Health Ministry to deliver them to the government at the airport or put them at the disposal of companies that are willing to vaccinate their staff members.
“The private sector has imported two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines so far. I’m asking the new health minister to change current conditions to facilitate transactions and accelerate vaccine imports,” he concluded.
Administrative burdens are slowing down the movement of Covid-19 vaccines into Iran, Masoud Khansari, the head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, recently told the Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.
“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 is by intent; there’s no reason to think vaccine imports by the private sector won’t endanger the interests of some people,” he added.
According to Ali Sarzaeem, an economic expert, high-ranking political officials are now more vocal about the importance of vaccine imports than reaching self-sufficiency in producing it.
“It is obvious that Iran has missed out the golden opportunity for the import and inoculation of Covid-19 vaccine; the country is now most vulnerable to the delta variant. Executive agencies are engaged in the blame game while daily Covid-19 deaths have reached record highs,” he said.
Blaming two misguided economic policies for the loss, he said emphasizing on government control over daily affairs of the state on the pretext of ensuring justice is one such policy.
“From day one, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education opposed the import of vaccine by the private sector as it believes that the country should not move in a direction that allows the rich to be vaccinated and not the poor.”
Sarzaeem says the government made a mistake by assuming the responsibility of supplying vaccines while the private sector could carry out this duty more effortlessly, quickly and efficiently, adding that it was also wrong for the government to take charge of vaccine distribution while again the private sector was more competent in doing so.
“The government was looking to see Covid-19 deaths equally befall the rich and the poor by employing a misguided policy, turning a blind eye to the fact that those who were financially capable travel to foreign countries to get vaccinated,” he added.
The expert stressed that achieving self-sufficiency in everything or almost everything is the second misguided approach.
“The lesson we can take from the high number of Covid-19 fatalities in recent days is that the government is not a good player; economic motivations act more efficiently when it comes to meeting the needs of the people. It is enough, even more than enough, for the government to stick to correct policymaking and to support the underprivileged,” the economist concluded.