The start of human trials on Tuesday comes as Iran has brought its COVID-19 fatalities down to a three-month low and the country continues to face difficulties in importing sufficient quantities of foreign vaccines due to US sanctions.
The daughter of a high-level state official was the first person to receive a shot of COVIran Barekat on Tuesday at ceremony attended by Minister of Health Saeed Namaki and Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari, among others.
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Mokhber, the daughter of Mohammad Mokhber, head of the Headquarters for Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (Setad), a state-run entity in charge of local coronavirus vaccine efforts, said, "I’m happy, not just because I’m the first person, but because this scientific process progressed so well in my country."
The two other recipients of the vaccine were also senior Setad-affiliated executives.
The Health Minister Namaki said: “The message of this action was that we don’t think we’re different than other people and we have brought our own family to test this vaccine.”
Authorities stated that more than 65,000 Iranians volunteered to test the vaccine and 56 were chosen to participate in the first phase of human trials, which should take 45 to 60 days.
Manufactured by Shifa Pharmed, COVIran Barekat is one of eight vaccine candidates, according to the health ministry, adding that the other seven should clear animal trials by late February.
Iran has reported more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases, including nearly 55,000 deaths.
On Friday, the Central Bank of Iran’s governor announced that the country reached an agreement to pay for 16.8 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, the World Health Organization (WHO) global initiative that aims to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all countries.
President Hassan Rouhani stated that US sanctions imposed after Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal in 2018, have led to barriers in money transfer to pay for vaccines.
Furthermore, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Karim Hemmati, announced Monday that unnamed philanthropists will also be sending 150,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Iran in the coming weeks.