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Iran launches trial of new home-made vaccines as campaigning is delayed

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s campaign to vaccinate its population against coronavirus has boosted itself as a growing vaccine maker as health officials announced on Tuesday that the country’s third domestic vaccine had reached clinical trials.

Details of its production, however, remained scarce.

Although Iran, with a population of more than 80 million, has so far imported foreign vaccines from Russia, China, India, and Cuba to cover more than 1.2 million people, concerns about future vaccination rates are pushing Iran to develop richer vaccines. Countries are taking the lion’s share of vaccine doses around the world.

Iranian scientists, like anywhere else in the world, are rushing to intensify their years-long process of developing vaccines – a problem that has become urgent as the country struggles to prevent the worst outbreak of the virus in the Middle East – tough US sanctions.

However, the details of the production of vaccines in the Islamic Republic are scarce. Two other Iranian vaccines are in clinical trials, of which 300 have so far been tested in a more advanced form called Barekat.

The government has announced that 20,000 volunteers in other cities in the Tehran capital will soon receive a new Iranian vaccine called Fakhra, which the official described to state media as “100% safe” without providing any evidence or data. Earlier this week, the government launched a vaccine plant that it says could produce 3 million doses a day.

The vaccine, broadcast on state television on Tuesday, was developed by a subsidiary of the Iranian Ministry of Defense, known as the Research and Innovation Organization.

Like the Barekat vaccine, which was still in the early stages of clinical trials, the company used inactive coronaviruses from 35,000 samples to make the new vaccine, a traditional technology based on developing batches of the virus to kill it. By comparison, Western drugmakers are taking a new gene-based approach to targeting thorns in the outer structure of the coronavirus, a method that has never been widely used before.

Iran’s fragmented approach to domestic vaccine production. Entities ranging from state-owned pharmaceutical companies to the Ministry of Defense, working separately on at least six different vaccines, reflect the broader competition and power structures of the country’s factions.

Iranian state television on Tuesday showed high-ranking officials in Tehran showing only one volunteer receiving the Fakhra vaccine, named after Iran’s chief nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed in a November attack blamed on Iran. To Israel. ,

While Fahrizadeh was known to lead the country’s disbanded nuclear weapons program in the early 2000s, Iran worshiped him as a leader in developing coronavirus vaccines inside the country. Fakhrizade’s son was the first to receive a new vaccine injection.

According to the Ministry of Health, the coronavirus has infected more than 1.7 million people in Iran, killing 61,427 people, which is the highest number of victims in the Middle East.

Iran officially launched its limited vaccination campaign last month, providing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to health care workers with chronic health problems. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has banned Iran from importing US-British vaccines, a sign of his deep distrust of the West.

However, Iran later announced that it would receive 4.2 million doses of vaccines developed by Oxford University’s UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca through the COVAX Global Initiative to ensure equitable access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.

The Ministry of Health has promised to vaccinate all adults in the country by the end of September, although how the government will achieve this ambitious goal remains unclear. Iran says it expects to import drugs from COVAX for more than 16 million people.

The government claims that the harsh US sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump in 2018 thwart attempts to buy foreign-made vaccines and spread mass vaccination campaigns, such as making progress in the US and Europe. Although international banks and financial institutions are often hesitant about dealing with Iran for fear of being fined or excluded from the US market, US sanctions have specific cuts in drug and humanitarian aid to Iran.

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Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran և Isabel DeBr in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.

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