President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday said the government has prepared a national plan to vaccinate 60 million Iranians in four phases after obtaining COVID-19 vaccines.
Speaking during a meeting of the National Task Force for Fighting the Coronavirus in Tehran, Rouhani said 1.3 million will get the jab in the first stage that include frontline medics, residents of nursing homes and people with disabilities.
“In the second phase, some 12 million people will be immunized with the priority going to the elderly and people with underlying health condition,” the president said in a televised speech.
He added that 19 million people will also receive shots in the third phase and 27.7 others will be vaccinated in the last phase.
Rouhani stressed that procurement of vaccines from abroad is one of the government's "priorities".
“Definitely, the purchase of vaccines is one of our priorities that we do and will make them available to the people,” he said.
On Friday, Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei banned vaccine imports from the United States and Britain because they were untrustworthy.
"I have already said it to government officials, and now announce it publicly. The import of American and British vaccines is prohibited,” the Leader said, according to Press TV.
"I really don't trust them. Sometimes they want to test the vaccine on other nations," Ayatollah Khamenei added.
He stressed, however, that the Iranian government is allowed to supply the COVID vaccine from other reliable sources.
Iran launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate late last month, saying it could help the country defeat the pandemic.
In parallel with efforts at developing home-made vaccines, Iranian authorities have said the county has plans to purchase foreign brands that pass safety and efficiency tests.
However, US sanctions have affected Iran’s ability to make the payment for importing vaccines as well as life-saving medical equipment.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been on the rise since 2018, when US President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed and reinforced sanctions.
Rouhani on Saturday hailed the measures which have been taken in the field of the domestic vaccine, noting that Iran is also trying to buy safe vaccines despite all restrictions.
“Regarding the foreign vaccine, we had been engaged in the transfer works for over a month and forty days. It was one of the clear examples of the crimes committed by the United States against the Iranian nation.”
"They created a lot of problems for the transfer of money to a company's account so that we could buy and import the vaccines when it was our turn. But, the government took the necessary measures despite all these difficulties."
He further said foreign companies will not be allowed to test COVID-19 vaccines on the Iranian people.
“Foreign companies wanted to give us vaccines so they would be tested on the Iranian people. But the Health Ministry prevented it,” Rouhani said in his televised remarks, without naming the companies, Reuters wrote.
“Of course, some countries accepted it, but we have nothing to do with them. Our people will not be a testing device for vaccine manufacturing companies,” he added. “We shall purchase safe foreign vaccines.”
So far, nearly 1.3 million Iranians have been infected with COVID-19 in Iran. More than 56,000 people have died.