The daily death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in Iran has declined to its lowest level in more than seven months, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.
The ministry’s spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said COVID-19 claimed only 71 lives over the past 24 hours, the lowest fatality since early June 2020.
The overall coronavirus death toll in Iran stands at 56,171, she added, according to Tasnim News Agency.
Lari also noted that the total number of people testing positive for respiratory disease surpassed 1,286,000, with the detection of 5,968 new cases.
Nearly 1,075,000 patients have recovered from the coronavirus infection so far or have been discharged from hospitals across Iran, the spokeswoman said.
Among those undergoing treatment in medical centers at present, 4,664 coronavirus patients are in critical condition, Lari noted.
She also noted that over 8.15 million coronavirus diagnostic tests have been carried out in Iran so far.
Cuba-Iran vaccine collaboration
Meanwhile, Cuba signed an accord with Iran to transfer the technology for its most advanced coronavirus vaccine candidate and carry out last-stage clinical trials of the shot in the Islamic Republic.
Cuban state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute (IFV) and the Pasteur Institute of Iran signed the agreement in Havana that will see a Phase 3 clinical trial in Iran to “move forward faster in immunization against COVID-19 in both countries,” the IFV announced on Twitter.
Once Cuba’s most advanced candidate, the Soberana (Sovereign) 2, has completed Phase 2 trials, which started on Dec. 22, it will be tested in Phase 3 trials on about 150,000 people in Havana, officials said, according to Reuters.
Yet the Caribbean country will need to conduct more late stage trials abroad, too, given that Cuba does not have a high infection rate due to its successful management of the outbreak, they said. Iran, meanwhile, has been the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Although cases in Cuba are increasing due to the opening of its borders, the country of 11.2 million has seen about 14,000 cases and 148 deaths, lower figures than its neighbors in the region, AFP wrote.
The Communist-ruled state wants to have its entire population immunized with its own vaccines by the first half of 2021.
The Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology is working on two other vaccine candidates, called Mambisa and Abdala.
Cuban scientists have experience in developing and manufacturing vaccines. The national childhood vaccination program has 11 vaccines against 13 diseases, eight of which are manufactured on the island.
Iran launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate late last month, while Cuba has four candidates currently in human trials.
“This synergy will enable both countries to advance more rapidly in the immunization against the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” the IFV said.
The Soberana 2 shows “an early immune response (at 14 days),” IFV Director Vicente Verez said in December.
Cuba says several countries have expressed interest in its coronavirus vaccines but this is the first such accord it has reached.
Iran’s Health Ministry official Kianush Jahanpour said 50,000 volunteers will be recruited to carry out the Phase 3 clinical trials. Technology transfer and joint production were preconditions for allowing human testing in the country, he said.
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was “impressed” by the biotech achievements of its old ally Cuba in the fight against COVID-19 during a visit to Havana on a Latin American tour last November.
In addition to developing its own vaccine, Iran is participating in the COVAX scheme which aims to secure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines for poorer countries. Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Friday banned importing COVID-19 vaccines from the United States and Britain, calling them “untrustworthy.”