Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has announced a ban on imports of U.S. and British coronavirus vaccines, saying he does not “trust” the two countries.
"Imports of U.S. and British vaccines into the country are forbidden. I have told this to officials and I'm saying it publicly now," Khamenei, who has the last say on all matters in his country, said in a live televised speech on January 8.
U.S. firms Pfizer and Moderna, as well as Britain's AstraZeneca, have developed coronavirus vaccines. Other countries, including Russia and China, have developed their own vaccines.
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“I really do not trust” the United States and Britain, he said, adding: "Sometimes they want to test” their vaccines on other countries.
Khamenei said Iran could obtain vaccines from “other reliable places” and praised the country's own efforts to develop domestic COVID-19 vaccines.
Iran, the country worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, has reported more than 1.2 million COVID-19 cases, with nearly 56,000 deaths. Analysts have questioned the accuracy of those numbers, with many saying they think the real figures could be substantially higher.
The country last month launched human trials of a domestic vaccine candidate, saying it could help in the defeat of the epidemic given U.S. sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.
Meanwhile, Iran’s central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati said Tehran had paid around $244 million for initial imports of 16.8 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, Iranian officials say the country has yet to receive any shipments so far.