Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said on Thursday that he had ordered transfer of 200 million euros from CBI funds in a foreign bank for purchase of coronavirus vaccines, according to Press TV.
In an interview with the state TV, Hemmati said that the CBI had used two banks in Turkey and in Europe and a branch of an Iranian bank to transfer the funds from South Korea to a Swiss bank processing payments related to a vaccine scheme run by the World Health Organization.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control in the US, he added, had granted a special permit to the South Korean bank to release part of the Iranian funds that have been blocked in the country because of US sanctions.
He said the CBI would pursue the case "relentlessly" until the payment is finalized.
Hemmati said Iran would pay around $244 million for initial imports of 16.8 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, a multi-agency group dedicated to assuring fair access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries, according to Reuters.
Iranian officials have said repeatedly that US sanctions have been preventing them from making payments to COVAX, to which some 190 economies have signed up.
Hemmati’s remarks came a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed unconfirmed reports suggesting that Iran may fail to make payments needed to obtain supplies of vaccines to battle COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Rouhani said Iran would take delivery of abundant supplies of the vaccine from abroad while it pursues plans for manufacturing an effective and safe version of the vaccine at home.
While fighting one of the largest outbreaks of coronavirus in the West Asia, Iran has been battling with the economic pressure of the US sanctions. The bans imposed by Washington have effectively barred Iran from accessing supplies of drugs and medical equipment needed to contain the virus.
Hemmati said Iranians should rest assured that the purchase and import of the COVID-19 vaccines would be carried out as soon as possible.
He said that the CBI would also continue its efforts to earmark hard currency needed by domestic pharma companies to set up manufacturing facilities for a home-made version of the vaccine.
Attempts to decrease deaths, cases
Iran has managed to decrease the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths in recent weeks.
Iran’s Health Ministry on Friday reported the lowest death toll since September 14 when 156 people lost their lives due to the coronavirus.
The ministry said 132 people died from Thursday to Friday, bringing the total death toll to 54,404, according to IRNA.
The ministry’s spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said 6,021 people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of the new infections to 1,183,182.
New infections, deaths and hospitalizations have significantly declined in recent weeks as a result of tough restrictions imposed since November 21.