EghtesadOnline: Twelve shipments of Covid-19 vaccines containing over 3.19 million doses were imported from Russia, China, India and South Korea from Feb. 3 to May 2, Fars News Agency quoted Mehrdad Jamal Orounaqi, an official with the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration as saying.
The private sector so far has not imported any vaccine, Nasser Riahi, a member of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture said on Sunday.
It has been reported that three private have signed contracts to import six million doses, Masoud Khansari, head of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture said recently.
“Vaccine import will be financed by business owners, manufacturers and executive managers of companies at market forex rates for free vaccination of their workers,” he said.
Riahi said vaccines the private sector is allowed to import can’t be purchased directly from the main producers or factories. “There are international wholesale companies with access to the vaccines” from which the companies can import.
Noting that the private sector has been granted permission by the government to import the vaccines, Riahi said, “At first, 100,000 doses are to be imported by private firms and and delivered to the National Headquarters to Fight Coronavirus or the Ministry of Health at the customs premises. Imports will include Russia’s Sputnik V and AstraZeneca from South Korea.”
“Importers will sell on a not-for-profit basis and with Health Ministry permits. Vaccines imported by the private sector will be administered to workers of production units. So far, 6,500 companies have registered for these vaccines. If import procedures are smooth the first shipment should arrive by May 22.”
An estimated six million imported doses are needed in the next six months to vaccinate the workers, he added.
“Private companies are [reportedly] capable of importing six million doses a month but refrigerated storage facilities and vaccine administration capacity are have been a constraint.”
$2 Billion Needed
Riahi said $2 billion is needed to vaccinate the total 83 million population. “The government applied for 17 million doses from COVAX but due to sanctions it could not transfer the money on time.”
For private firms it will cost between 2-2.5 million rials ($9-$11) to import one vaccine and workers are expected to pick up the tab.
COVAX is a global initiative undertaken by the World Health Organization aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines.
Using Blocked Assets
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said this week the government will pay for importing Covid vaccines through funds locked in Iraq due to the US economic blockade. The Arab neighbor owes an estimated $7 billion to Iran for electricity and natural gas imports.
“Iran had agreed to import wheat, barley, rice, oil, soybean, corn, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices from Iraq in lieu of the long outstanding debts. Now the two sides have agreed to buy Sputnik V and AstraZeneca vaccine from these resources,” ILNA quoted Hamid Hosseini, a member of the Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce, as saying.
The governor of Central Bank of Iran has said the CBI is prepared to pay for the vaccine imports. In a note posted on his social media account, Abdolnasser Hemmati said last week the CBI has allocated $100 million to this end.
"Allocations will continue as per requests by the Health Ministry," he wrote on Instagram.
The CBI provides subsidized currency for the vaccines (1 US dollar = 42,000 rials) – less than a quarter of the rate in the free market.
Despite the US economic sanctions and tough restrictions on money transfer, the CBI has strived to make the vaccines available, he noted, adding that the bank will give priority to the forex needs of private companies wanting to import vaccines.
President Hassan Rouhani has said mass vaccination is a priority of his government as it tackles a fourth wave of the deadly disease.
Deaths from the coronavirus pandemic in Iran exceeded 72,875 with 391 more Iranians dying from the infectious disease in the past 24 hours, Iran's Health Ministry said on Monday.
It said 391 Iranians died from the virus in the past 24 hours bringing the total toll to 72,875. A total of 20,732 new infections were reported in 24 hours and 3,009 were hospitalized.
It added that 2,004,949 patients out of a total 2,555,587 infected had recovered or sent home and 5,461 are in critical condition in intensive care. The ministry added that to date 16,240,345 coronavirus tests have been carried out across the country.