Iran says U.S. approved funds transfer to buy COVID vaccines

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has won US approval to transfer funds for coronavirus vaccines from abroad, the central bank governor said on Thursday as his daily death toll dropped to a three-month low.

Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said an Iranian bank had received approval from the US Treasury Department for foreign asset control to transfer the money to a Swiss bank to pay for the vaccines.

“They (Americans) have imposed sanctions on all our banks. They accepted this one case under pressure from world opinion,” Hemmati told state television.

Hemmati said Iran would pay about $ 244 million for the initial import of 16.8 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, a group of multiple agencies dedicated to ensuring fair access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said that US sanctions prevented them from paying to COVAX, which approx. 190 economies have signed up.

Iran’s Shifa Pharmed began registering volunteers this week for human trials with the country’s first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Iranian media reported.

Shifa Pharmed is a subsidiary of a large conglomerate controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which was the subject of an award-winning Reuters survey in 2013. (https://www.reuters.com/investigates/iran/#article/part1)

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state television earlier that 152 people had died from COVID-19 in Iran in the last 24 hours, the lowest number since September 18, killing 54,308 people in the hardest-hit country in the Middle East. .

The drop in deaths comes after more than a month of curfews at night and other restrictions in major cities. Police said 96,000 fines were issued nationwide on Wednesday for drivers violating the curfew.

Officials have warned that the danger of a resurgence of infections looms large.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers in 2018 and imposed new sanctions on the country.

The election of President Joe Bidens to power has raised the possibility that Washington could rejoin the agreement.

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