Middle East/North Africa

Iran: US sanctions hampering efforts to buy COVID-19 vaccine

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said that U.S. sanctions have proven a hurdle against Tehran obtaining coronavirus vaccines.

The sanctions, which followed the 2018 U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, cut the nation off from international financial systems and have devastated the country’s oil and gas industries. The U.S. has claimed medicine is not covered by the sanctions. However, Rouhani said Wednesday that the financial restrictions mean it often takes weeks to process payments for drugs and medical supplies.

“Our people should know that for any action we plan to carry out for importing medicine, vaccines and equipment, we should curse Trump a hundred times,” Rouhani said, according to The Associated Press, citing the IRNA state news agency.

Iranian officials said last week that the country is also preparing to begin human testing for its own vaccine candidate. The country of more than 80 million people is seeking to buy some 20 million doses from outside the country, according to the AP.

Iran was an early national epicenter of the virus and has had the worst outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 50,000 deaths and more than 1 million confirmed cases. The economic fallout from the sanctions has made officials hesitant to impose sweeping lockdown measures.

President Trump announced a new round of Iranian sanctions targeting 18 banks in October. Critics warned at the time that the move would likely hamper humanitarian aid to the country, with Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative calling it “sadism masquerading as foreign policy.”

“They won’t bring the Iranian government to its knees but will hurt ordinary people, encourage more smuggling and in the long run, undermine dollar-based sanctions,” she tweeted in October.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Iran sanctions Vaccine

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