Covid-19: Iran says US approved its transfer of funds to buy vaccines
Iran has secured approval from the United States to transfer funds for coronavirus vaccines from overseas, the central bank chief said.
Abdolnaser Hemmati told state TV on Thursday that an Iranian bank had received backing from the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to transfer money to a Swiss bank to pay for the vaccines.
"They [Americans] have put sanctions on all our banks. They accepted this one case under the pressure of world public opinion," Hemmati said.
The Central Bank governor said Iran would pay almost $244m for initial imports of 16.8 million doses of the vaccines from Covax, a multiagency group dedicated to assuring fair access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said that US sanctions are preventing them from making payments to Covax, to which some 190 countries have signed up.
Hemmati previously said in a post to Instagram that banks in South Korea that held Iranian frozen assets had refused to guarantee the transfer of funds to Covax over worries the money would be seized by the US.
US sanctions, reintroduced by President Donald Trump after he pulled Washington out of the Iran nuclear deal with world powers in 2018, have had a significant impact on Iran's health sector, preventing humanitarian aid and access to life-saving medicine for some Iranians.
The sanctions have crippled Iran's economy, leading to a decline in the purchasing of ordinary grocery items such as red meat and rice.
Earlier this week, Iranian pharmaceutical company Shifa Pharmed began registering volunteers for human trials of the country's first domestic Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Iranian media reported.
Mohammed Reza Naqdi, deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Tehran was not recommending vaccines developed by foreign countries to be used on the personnel of the IRGC, according to Iranian news outlets.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV earlier on Thursday that 152 people had died of Covid-19 in Iran in the past 24 hours, the lowest daily toll since 18 September.
A total of 54,308 have died in Iran from the virus, making it the worst-affected country in the Middle East.
The decline in deaths comes after more than a month of night traffic curfews and other restrictions in major cities. Officials have cautioned that the danger of a resurgence in infections looms large.