Iranian health officials say the country’s top COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been shown to work on the variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the United Kingdom.
Hassan Jalili, who oversees local vaccine production at Setad, a powerful state organisation under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, said on Saturday that tests on the blood samples of volunteers who received two doses of COVIran Barekat have yielded promising results.
“Tests have shown that the blood plasma of the people who were injected with the vaccine in human trials is capable of completely defusing the mutated virus of the English corona[virus],” he said.
Minoo Mohraz, a senior member of the national coronavirus task force, also confirmed the news.
“The health ministry gave a sample of the English mutated virus that has a 70 percent higher infection rate to Setad researchers and tests on the blood plasma of the first three recipients of COVIran Barekat showed the virus was completely defused,” she said.
Earlier this week, Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the seventh case of the UK variant was identified in Iran in a passenger from the Netherlands.
Iran injected its first three recipients of the local vaccine on December 29, the first of whom was the daughter of Setad’s chief and the other two top Setad executives, in an effort to boost trust.
Since then, 32 others have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccine and all 56 of the initial candidates are on track to receive their first dose by late February.
Setad officials have said they aim to produce one to two million doses of COVIran Barekat before the end of the current Iranian calendar year in late March and boost production to more than 10 million doses two months after that.
Several other locally manufactured vaccines are also in the works and officials have said they have a chance of reaching human trials.
Iran is also pursuing foreign vaccines from several avenues to start vaccinating health workers and vulnerable groups before the local vaccines are ready.
Earlier this week, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced during a diplomatic trip to Moscow that the Russian Sputnik V vaccine has been approved for emergency use in Iran.
The first doses of the vaccine will be delivered next week, Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, said on Saturday.
Iran is also trying to receive vaccines from COVAX, an initiative under the World Health Organization, and is negotiating with China and India for vaccines.
Khamenei banned imports of vaccines from the United States and the United Kingdom earlier this month, saying, “I don’t trust them.”