Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced on April 8 that there would be a delay in delivery of 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from India.
“We have done what we should have done. We bought vaccines from India and we paid for it, but then they said, ‘Our Judiciary has gotten in the way, and we cannot give you the vaccines,’ ” Rouhani said.
He then blamed the United States.
“U.S. blocked Iran’s access to 10m doses of coronavirus vaccine,” Rouhani said, according to Press TV and other Iranian state-owned media.
The claim is false.
Iran’s health ministry said the government had purchased 16.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, some from South Korea and India via the United Nations global COVAX initiative.
The World Health Organization initiated the COVAX program in partnership with other U.N. bodies and Gavi, an alliance to help get COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
Under COVAX, Iran received 150,000 doses of India’s Covaxin on March 11, and more than 700,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by South Korea’s SK-Bio Institute on April 5.
Contrary to Rouhani’s claim, New Delhi’s decision to pause vaccine exports was not targeted at any specific country.
On March 25, Gavi announced a delay in delivery of both Serum Institute of India (SII) and AstraZeneca vaccines “as the government of India battles a new wave of COVID-19 infections” and AstraZeneca vaccine manufacturers faced a supply shortage.
India said it temporarily halted its participation in the COVAX program in order to address a domestic shortage of vaccines amid a surge of new COVID-19 infections. This month, India has been facing more than 103,500 daily infections, with 13.5 million people having tested positive for coronavirus and more than 170,000 dead.
With this new wave of infections, India has become a pandemic hot spot. Although the country’s vaccination program is among the world’s largest, the 87 million shots India administered so far covered less than 7% of its roughly 1.4 billion people.
Iran is also in a tough situation: On April 10, Tehran announced yet another nationwide lockdown due to a resurgence of coronavirus. The health ministry said a fresh wave of infections started following the two weeks in March during which Iranians celebrated the Persian New Year.
With more than 2 million confirmed coronavirus infections and 65,000 deaths, Iran is one of the Middle East/Gulf countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
Iranian government officials previously have made false claims about the effect of U.S. nuclear sanctions on the country’s ability to purchase emergency medical and basic food supplies. In fact, the sanctions exclude those categories.
On April 15, the U.S. will host a COVAX investment opportunity event to help boost funding for the program. Washington has pledged to contribute $2 billion with the aim of “accelerating global access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”
Russia and China have sold their vaccines to Iran. In January, Tehran approved the use of Russia’s Sputnik V and ordered 2 million doses. In late March, Iran said it had received 400,000 doses from Russia and would start domestic production of Sputnik V in April.
In February, Iran said it had received 250,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine.