Iran finds way to buy Covid vaccine despite US sanctions

(Bloomberg) – Iran has found a way to buy coronavirus vaccines following a US exemption to its sanctions, in a breakthrough for the country that’s fighting the worst outbreak of the virus in the Middle East.

Iran will purchase 16.8 million vaccine doses from the World Health Organisation’s Covax facility by transferring a US$244 million payment through two unidentified European and Turkish banks and a domestic bank, central bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati told state television.

He said the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control greenlit the transaction “under pressure from world public opinion.”

With around 1.2 million people infected and over 54,000 dead, Iran’s coronavirus outbreak is the worst in the region, and officials have previously said their ability to fight it is hampered by sanctions.

Iran has been trying to use its foreign currency reserves held abroad to pay for the vaccine via Covax, but was told by countries including South Korea that the money risks being seized or blocked, Hemmati said earlier this month.