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Khamenei Shown Receiving Newly Introduced Homegrown Covid Vaccine

The official website of Ali Khamenei has published photos of the supreme leader receiving the first dose of what it says is COVIran Barakat, the homegrown vaccine that Iran's Food and Drug Administration licensed for use June 3. After receiving his jab, Khamenei said he had been told for several months he should be vaccinated but had waited to avoid taking a foreign vaccine or to be inoculated before the rest of his age group.

In January the 82-year-old leader barred the import of United States- and United Kingdom-made coronavirus vaccines including any purchased through the World Health Organization’s Covax facility. “They can’t be relied on and trusted,” Khamenei said in a video released on January 8. “Sometimes they want to test [products] on other nations.”

Khamenei had no public meetings from the arrival of Covid-19 in February 2020 until July 21, 2020, when he received Iraqi Prime Minister Mostafa Al-Kadhimi. In photos with Kadhimi, Khamenei wore a mask but did not make any more appearances until February 2021.

Hardliners, who in general extol self-sufficiency, claimed imported vaccines could be used as a biological weapon against Iranians and a high-ranking Revolutionary Guards said foreign vaccines were meant to kill one-fifth of the world population.

According to Khamenei's website, however, the leader said “foreign” vaccines could be used alongside Iranian vaccines "if required." The vaccination program, which has so far vaccinated 3 percent of the population, has mainly used Chinese and Russian vaccines. Human Rights Watch said in a statement in January that the ban on US and UK-made vaccines would "seriously threaten Iranians' right to health and could undermine their access to vital medicine."

Iran's national vaccination plan has not made any significant progress, with only 1,2 percent of the population having been fully inoculated, while many countries in the region are well into mass vaccination.

COVIran Barakat has been developed by Shifa Pharmed under the lead of Minoo Mohraz, an Aids specialist and professor of infectious diseases at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Shifa Pharmed is owned by Barakat Foundation, a large charitable foundation and subsidiary of Execution of Imam's Order, a larger entity controlled by the supreme leader.

Farid Najafi, head of research and technology at Iran’s health ministry, wrote on June 8 to the minister warning against “the hasty” approval of COVIran Barekat domestic Covid-19 vaccine, Hamshahri newspaper reported Thursday. Najafi’s letter was sent a week before health minister Saeed Namaki announced June 15 an emergency-use authorization of the vaccine.

Iran is working on several other vaccines, some of which have had human trials. Payam Tabarsi, a member of the medical staff of Iran's anti-coronavirus taskforce, said Friday second and third trials of Spikogen would soon begin. Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) has described Tabarsi as lead researcher in developing Spikogen, a joint venture between Australia’s Vaxine Pty and Iran’s CinnaGen, a private company that its website says manufactures hi-tech products in biotechnology and related fields.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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