Iran acts to buy, test vaccines as virus deaths dip to 3-month low

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has reached an initial deal to buy coronavirus vaccines from overseas and plans to test a domestically manufactured shot soon, state media reported Thursday as the daily death toll fell to a three-month low.
Central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati said Iran had a tentative agreement to transfer money for vaccines and would pay around $ 244 million for initial vaccine imports.
Hemmati gave no further details. The Islamic Republic recently said that US sanctions prevented them from making payments to COVAX, a multi-agency group advocating fair access to vaccines for low and middle income countries. Around 190 national economies have joined the COVAX program.
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According to Iranian media, Shifa Pharmed of Iran this week started registering volunteers for human trials with the country's first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Shifa Pharmed is a subsidiary of a large conglomerate controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and was the subject of an award-winning Reuters study in 2013. (Https://www.reuters.com/investigates/iran/#article/part1)
Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state television that 152 people had died of COVID-19 in Iran in the past 24 hours. This was the lowest number since September 18. A total of 54,308 people died in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
The decline in deaths is due to more than a month of night curfews and other restrictions in major cities. According to police, 96,000 fines were imposed nationwide on Wednesday for drivers who violated the curfew.
However, officials have indicated that there is a high risk of infection recurring.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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Abdolnaser Hemmati

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