Ebrahim Raisi
Ebrahim Raisiצילום: רויטרס

Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi vowed on Tuesday his government would start rapid COVID-19 vaccinations in the country.

“The quickest general vaccination … will be among our immediate programs from the first day of the government,” Raisi said in remarks carried live by state TV and quoted on Reuters.

“Domestically produced vaccines, and if necessary those produced abroad (will be obtained) quickly …so that people will feel at ease and the economy will flourish,” Raisi added.

Iran has for months wrestled with the worst outbreak in the Middle East of COVID-19.

In a clear sign of the scale of the outbreak, dozens of top officials have fallen ill. At least 30 lawmakers have tested positive in recent months and some have died.

High-profile deaths in Iran from the coronavirus include a member of the council advising the Ayatollah, a former ambassador, a newly-elected member of parliament, an adviser to Zarif and a re-elected member of parliament.

The government of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani has faced criticism for a slow vaccination drive, which officials have blamed on US sanctions hampering efforts to buy foreign vaccines and on delays in deliveries.

Iran has so far imported foreign vaccines from Russia, China, India and Cuba to cover over 1.2 million people. It has also developed several homegrown vaccines, though the effectiveness of those is not known.

The current government’s spokesman, Ali Rabiei, said on Tuesday that Iran will focus on using the three locally made COVID-19 vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V and a vaccine jointly produced with Cuba. Raisi’s government takes over in early August.

Rabiei said the Pasteurcovac vaccine, known as Soberana 2 in Cuba, is expected to be licensed for public use this week in Iran.