EghtesadOnline: The governor of Central Bank of Iran says the bank is prepared to meet the foreign currency needs for importing Covid-19 vaccine.
In a note posted on his social media account, Abdolnasser Hemmati said the CBI allocated $100 million to vaccine purchase on Tuesday.
"Allocations will continue as per requests by the Health Ministry," he wrote in a note on Instagram.
The CBI gave subsidized currency for the vaccines (1 US dollar = 42,000 rials) – much less than a quarter of the rate in the free market.
Cheap currency is given only to import some basic goods, food, medicine and essential raw materials for manufacturing companies.
Pointing to the surge in Covid cases, Hemmati said "supplying the vaccine and vaccinations must be the most important goal of the country".
Despite the US economic sanctions and tough restrictions on money transfer, CBI has strived to make available the vaccines, he noted.
"CBI will meet all the currency needs to purchase the vaccine in the request of the Health Ministry. So far forex has been given for vaccine import from China and Russia."
Iran has finalized agreement with Moscow for the purchase of 60 million doses of coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, according to Iran's ambassador to the country, Kazem Jalali.
Hemmati said the bank will also give priority to the forex needs of private companies wanting to import vaccines.
Last week President Hassan Rouhani said private drug companies can also import the vaccine, noting that vaccines being produced by domestic firms will not be available before summer.
Private companies can import the vaccine using currency sold in the secondary market, known locally as Nima.
Nima is currency trade platform affiliated to the CBI, where exporters sell currency to importers. The rates at Nima are slightly less than the free market.
On Tuesday the Health Ministry said it had given permits to three private companies to import the vaccine. Names and other details of the companies were not available.
Referring to the contract with Covax based on which 16.8 million doses of vaccine is to be sold to Iran, the senior banker said prepayment has been made and the import process has started.
Covax is global initiative operating under World Health Organization, which brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure eventual Covid-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need. The initiative strives for fair and equitable distribution of vaccine doses. Iran announced in October that it had joined Covax.
Iran recently received 700,000 AstraZeneca jabs under Covax. So far 621,822 people have received the shots in two months since the start of the national vaccination campaign, ISNA reported, citing Health Ministry data.
The fourth wave of the disease emerged soon after the Iranian New Year holidays in early April prompting the government to announce new lockdowns. Iran’s new Covid deaths reached 67,525 on Tuesday and 2.3 million have been infected so far.