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Iran to start Covid vaccinations within week

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Iran will kick off its coronavirus vaccination campaign within a week, President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday after the country received its first batch of Russia's Sputnik V jab.

The Islamic republic is fighting the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, with over 58,000 lives lost out of more than 1.4 million cases of infection.

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Iran has bought two million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told AFP.

The first batch arrived in the country on Thursday, and the country is scheduled to receive two more batches by February 28.

A handout picture provided by the media office of Imam Khomeini Airport City shows, the first shipment of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine unloaded at Imam Khomeini airport in Iran's capital Tehran on February 4, 2021. - A first batch of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Iran, the country hit hardest by the pandemic regionally and which alleges US sanctions hinder its fight against Covid-19. (Photo by Saeed KAARI / Imam Khomeini Airport City / AFP)


"Vaccinations will start this very week; this is a real cause for celebration," Rouhani told a televised meeting of Iran's Covid-19 taskforce.

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He did not give a specific date, only saying that the programme would begin before next Wednesday, which marks the 42nd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution.

Health workers would be the first to get the jabs, followed by the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, Rouhani said.

The president expressed hope that the first three categories would be inoculated before the Persian New Year on March 21.

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Russia registered the Sputnik V vaccine -- named after the Soviet-era satellite -- in August last year, before the start of large-scale clinical trials.

In addition to the Russian jab, Iran is expecting to receive 4.2 million doses of a vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca in February.

They were purchased via Covax, the mechanism for the equitable distribution of vaccines established by the UN World Health Organization.

Iran started clinical trials of one of its own vaccines in late December, and according to Rouhani, they may become available by early summer.

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