Iranian health minister faces public outrage for having received an imported vaccine, contradicting his earlier claims

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Iran IranA group of conservative legislators in Iran’s parliament are attempting to impeach the country’s health minister, marking the first such effort against President Ebrahim Raisi’s cabinet.

The originator of the impeachment motion, Kamal Hosseinpour, attacked the health minister’s personal choice in COVID-19 immunization and his decision to take an imported dosage rather than an Iranian dose during an open meeting on Jan. 11. “This is inexcusable and exposes a serious weakness,” the legislator stated.

“Many of the cabinet members, inducing myself, have got the domestic immunizations,” Health Minister Bahram Einollahi boasted earlier last month. The minister was speaking at a ceremony marking the start of the clinical trial phase of one of five Iranian vaccinations.

The minister’s assertion, however, was called into doubt a week later when a photo of his vaccination certificate went viral, revealing his name and indicating that he had been vaccinated with the imported Russian Sputnik vaccine. Officials from the Ministry of Health moved quickly to address the outpouring of public outrage. The officials threatened legal action against “a medical doctor” who “breached privacy regulations” by disclosing the paper, even though they did not doubt its legitimacy.

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The ministry’s public relations head claimed Einollahi had received insults from both Iran and Russia, describing the row as “a deliberate foreign media effort designed to undermine public trust.” Since the globe began offering immunization programs more than a year ago, Iran’s rollout has been uphill. Last January, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei imposed a ban on the import of vaccines from the United States and the United Kingdom, thereby tying Hassan Rouhani’s hands. With Raisi’s inauguration, the slow-moving rollout exacerbated by heavy import restrictions accelerated.

Meanwhile, government officials, including the health minister, have been promoting a number of locally made vaccinations. The leaked memo was regarded as confirmation of the minister’s “lie” throughout Iran’s social media platforms, fueling resentment among citizens who have been repeatedly encouraged to take the national vaccines. The health minister was giving a pompous speech elsewhere in Tehran as the impeachment bid was being debated in parliament, and he opted not to mention the controversy.

Instead, he celebrated a milestone in the country’s “historic” vaccination campaign, which has reached “as many as 90 percent of Iranians with at least one dosage,” with 79 percent of those who have been double-jabbed. All of this, he asserted, was accomplished “despite unjust sanctions” and represents “the enemy’s total failure in its sanctions regime.”

Given the strong alignment between Raisi’s administration and a parliament already stacked with his supporters, it’s unclear how far the impeachment attempt may go. However, it would be a rare challenge against the hardline cabinet, and it might jeopardize the government’s long-awaited immunization accomplishments.

“We are not disclosing the names of the fellow parliamentarians who have already signed the impeachment bid because we are afraid that “certain people” within the Raisi government circles “will waste no time lobbying to persuade the lawmakers to withdraw their signatures,” the lawmaker behind the motion said.

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