The first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has arrived in Iran as the country prepares to launch a COVID-19 inoculation campaign aimed at curbing the usage of Western medicines.
The state news agency IRNA showed video of the vaccine delivery being transferred off a Mahan Airline flight at Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran on February 4.
Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, said the second and third deliveries of the vaccine were due to be sent to Tehran on February 18 and 28.
Mohammad Reza Shansaz, the head of Iran’s drug regulator, said earlier this week he expected Iran to initially receive 500,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.
Iran, the country hardest-hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, has turned mainly to Russia, China, and India for vaccines after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in January announced a ban on those made by the United States and Britain, calling them “completely untrustworthy.”
On February 3, however, Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca would provide the country with 4.2 million doses of its vaccine. They were purchased via COVAX, the World Health Organization-backed program to ensure global access to vaccines.
Tehran has also said it is working on developing its own vaccine, as well as on one with Cuban experts.
Russia registered Sputnik V in August 2020 before the start of large-scale clinical trials or data, raising many questions over the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
However, peer-reviewed, late-stage trial results published in The Lancet medical journal this week showed the two-dose regimen of Sputnik V was 91.6 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19.
Other countries, including Argentina, Serbia, and Hungary, have approved the Russian vaccine.
Iran has accused the United States of blocking its access to vaccines and other medical equipment and supplies through its sanctions regime.
Iran has recorded 58,000 deaths during the pandemic, though many experts say the figure is likely much higher due to underreporting by officials.