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Raisi Tells First Cabinet Meeting That Iran Is 'Seriously Lagging Behind' As Virus Woes Mount

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi made his remarks during the first meeting of his cabinet in Tehran on August 26.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi says the country is "seriously lagging behind" in certain social and economic areas and the government must act to "improve people's livelihoods" as the country grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases.

Speaking on August 26 at the start of his first cabinet meeting since the government was approved by parliament a day earlier, Raisi acknowledged that the situation in the country "must certainly change."

Iran has struggled to control the COVID-19 pandemic with officials blaming the more contagious Delta variant for the country's "fifth wave" of coronavirus infections.

Critics, however, point to a decision earlier this year to ban the import of vaccines made by the United States, Britain, and France, because they could cause "unknown and irreversible complications."

The move has helped cause the country's vaccination drive to lag far behind expectations and Raisi, an ultraconservative, vowed to increase vaccine imports and boost local production, saying efforts so far have been "necessary but not enough." He did not give any details of his plans.

Iranian authorities have approved the emergency use of two domestically developed vaccines, but the only mass-produced one, COVIran Barekat, is in short supply.

More than 16.3 million people out of the country's 83 million inhabitants have been given a first vaccine dose, but only 5.4 million have received the second, the Health Ministry said on August 20.

In addition to the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit Iran harder than any other country in the Middle East and continues to wrack up daily records for deaths and new cases, Raisi said the government must rein in inflation as the impact of financial sanctions imposed by Washington decimates the economy.