EghtesadOnline: A total of 4.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Iran on 238 pallets weighing 73 tons on Sept. 3, the largest coronavirus shipment imported so far, according to technical deputy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
“The new imported vaccines are the Chinese-made Sinopharm,” Mehrdad Jamal Orounaqi was quoted as saying by IRNA.
“One hundred million doses of Covid-19 vaccines will have been imported to Iran by the end of 2021 as per contracts signed with international manufacturers,” Nasser Riahi, chairman of Iranian Pharmaceutical Importers Association, told IRNA recently.
The private sector representative said the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, 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,” he said.
“Iran needs to purchase vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna supplied by COVAX via the World Health Organization due to banking issues. The country pays its financial commitments to WHO that pays the vaccine manufacturers.”
Riahi said Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are ready to send 20 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccines to Iran each, but such imports might take months due to restrictions regarding temperature requirements for shipping and storage.
The official noted that contracts were signed for importing 30-50 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, but the neighboring country failed to deliver 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 has failed to be imported due to certain problems while imports of AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ongoing from different countries,” he said.
Noting that at present, the private sector is not carrying out imports of vaccines, Riahi said the 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’s 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 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 achieving self-sufficiency in producing it.
“It is obvious that Iran has missed the golden opportunity for the import and administration 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 reach record highs,” he added.
Blaming two misguided economic policies for the loss, he said emphasizing the governmental control of daily affairs of state on the pretext of improving justice is the first of these policies.
“From day one, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education opposed the import of vaccine by the private sector, as it believed the country should not move in a direction that allows the rich to be vaccinated and not the poor.”
The expert said the government made a mistake by assuming the responsibility of supplying vaccine 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 are financially capable travel to foreign countries to get vaccinated,” he added.
Sarzaeem said reaching 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 people. It is enough, even more than enough, for the government to stick to correct policymaking and to support the underprivileged,” he concluded.