Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday received the first dose of a domestically produced coronavirus vaccine, his social media announced, as the country battles the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak.
The 81-year-old cleric’s Twitter feed published a video it said showed him “receiving the first dose of the #IranianCovidVaccine that has been developed by young Iranian scientists”.
The footage shows him wearing a surgical mask and a black turban, sitting under a picture of the Islamic republic’s founder Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, as two male medics tend to him, injecting him in the left arm.
State television broadcast the same scene, saying Khamenei had received a single dose of the COVIran Barekat jab, developed by a powerful state-owned foundation known as Setad.
Iran announced on June 14 that it had had given emergency approval for the domestically produced vaccine.
The Islamic republic is attempting to make up for a lack of vaccines and providing second jabs to those who have already received a first, on a voluntary basis.
Strangled by US sanctions that have made it difficult to make money transfers to foreign firms, Tehran says it is struggling to import vaccines for its 83 million population.
In early January, Khamenei banned imports of UK- and US-produced vaccines, saying they could “contaminate” the country.
In another tweet on his English-language Twitter feed on Friday, he said he was “truly grateful to all those who used their knowledge & experience & made scientific & practical efforts to provide the country with such a great, prestigious capability”.
Iran has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 83,500 people among 3.1 million infected, according to official figures widely seen as understating the toll.
The health ministry says more than 4.4 million of Iran’s 83 million people have received a first vaccine dose since an inoculation campaign began in February.
Just over a quarter of those — nearly 1.13 million — have received the two jabs necessary for the vaccine to be fully effective.
Iran is running clinical trials on four other vaccines against Covid-19.