Palestinian health ministry approves Russian COVID-19 vaccine

Palestinian medical workers take a swab sample from a resident in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. (AFP)
Palestinian medical workers take a swab sample from a resident in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. (AFP)
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Updated 12 January 2021

Palestinian health ministry approves Russian COVID-19 vaccine

Palestinian medical workers take a swab sample from a resident in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. (AFP)
  • Palestinian Authority expects to receive 1st vaccine doses from UK's AstraZeneca in March
  • It accuses Israel of shirking a duty to ensure vaccines are available in occupied territory

MOSCOW/RAMALLAH: The health ministry of the Palestinian Authority has approved the main Russian vaccine against COVID-19, known as Sputnik V, for use in Palestinian self-ruled territory, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said on Monday.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila confirmed that his ministry had granted “emergency approval” for the Russian vaccine to be administered in areas under limited Palestinian self-rule.
The first shipment of the Russian shot is expected to arrive next month, with all deliveries expected in the first quarter of this year, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad.
The RDIF did not disclose how many doses would be shipped to the Palestinian Authority — which governs in parts of the West Bank under interim peace deals with Israel — but said the supplies would be facilitated by manufacturing partners in India, China, South Korea and elsewhere.
It also did not reveal the financial arrangements of the export deal but has said previously that Sputnik V would be priced at less than $20 per dose. The price includes the first shot and the booster, which is injected 21 days later.
The Palestinian Authority said on Sunday it expected to receive its first COVID-19 vaccine doses from British drugmaker AstraZeneca in March, and accused Israel of shirking a duty to ensure vaccines are available in occupied territory.
While Israel has become the world leader in vaccinations per capita, Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip — where Hamas rule — have yet to obtain their first supplies.
Outside Russia, where authorities say over a million people have now been inoculated with Sputnik V, the vaccine has also been approved for emergency use by local regulators in Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia and Serbia, RDIF has said.
Russian authorities have said that any Sputnik V export deals would involve only doses produced by such manufacturing partners abroad, with Russian-made vaccines primarily used to meet domestic needs.
Hence Russia’s first major international shipment of vaccine doses — 300,000 that left Moscow for Argentina last month — kindled an outcry at home as critics questioned why exports were being prioritized over domestic requirements.


Rouhani to sue Iran state broadcaster over opium use comments

Ahmed Jahan Bozorgi, a cleric and member of an Islamic think tank, said Hassan Rouhani (pictured) could often not be reached by members of the Iranian Cabinet because he was at home smoking opium. (Reuters/File Photo)
Ahmed Jahan Bozorgi, a cleric and member of an Islamic think tank, said Hassan Rouhani (pictured) could often not be reached by members of the Iranian Cabinet because he was at home smoking opium. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 23 min 1 sec ago

Rouhani to sue Iran state broadcaster over opium use comments

Ahmed Jahan Bozorgi, a cleric and member of an Islamic think tank, said Hassan Rouhani (pictured) could often not be reached by members of the Iranian Cabinet because he was at home smoking opium. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • President accused of taking drugs by hardline cleric during live broadcast
  • Latest example of pressure being applied on moderates ahead of June presidential elections

LONDON: Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, is to sue his country’s state broadcaster after he was accused of opium use on national television.

On Friday, the president’s office of legal affairs said Rouhani would pursue damages for defamation after Ahmed Jahan Bozorgi, a cleric and member of an Islamic think tank, said Rouhani could often not be reached by members of the Iranian Cabinet because he was at home smoking the drug. 

Alireza Moezi, on behalf of Rouhani’s office, said: “What was broadcast last night was sadly just shameless insult, slander and foul language against the president.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation, which is controlled by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Bozorgi’s institute, which frequently advises the Iranian government, both subsequently distanced themselves from the comments. 

The incident, though, is seen by many as an attempt to undermine Rouhani, a relative moderate in Iranian politics, and his allies by conservative hardliners ahead of the country’s presidential elections later this year.

Rouhani, who will stand down having served two terms, has presided over a period of increasing tensions with the US during the sole term of President Donald Trump, a period in which the hardliners have made significant political gains, whilst failing to oust the president himself.

On Wednesday, Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Communications Minister Mohammad Azari Jahromi were summoned to Parliament to face questions over their relationship with recently-installed US President Joe Biden.

Rouhani said he hoped that US sanctions on Iran would soon be lifted, amid hopes that a change of president in the US could see a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or “Iran Nuclear Deal,” that was sidelined by the US under Trump.

Such a sequence of events, it is thought, would give Rouhani and his allies a significant political win in the build up to the June elections. The move is opposed by the hardliners, though, who favor a stronger stance on the US.

“We do not need the nuclear deal anymore. Our strength comes from the fact that we have kept our existence without it,” said Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

One radical member of parliament, meanwhile, said Iran should look to “impeach” Rouhani, following the example of Democrat senators in the US towards Trump, amid claims the trio were “friends” of the new administration in Washington.