Iran regime’s restriction of covid19 vaccination

by OIAC

OIAC Webinar Series Presents;

 Iran regime’s restriction of covid19 vaccination & crimes against humanity

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 | 2:00 – 3:00 PM EST

Registration link: http://bit.ly/IranPandemic

Participants

Moderator
AzadehDr. Azadeh Sami is a practicing pediatrician and public health researcher focusing on Iran. Her parents emigrated from Iran to the U.S. before the 1979 revolution. She has been a life-long advocate of human rights in Iran with specialization in public health. After obtaining her Master of Science degree in Public Health at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and medical degree at Midwestern University in Phoenix, AZ, Dr. Sami moved to DC Metropolitan area to complete her residency in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Sami is a founding member of OIAC Young Professional Chapter and has been outspoken on the issue of COVID19 in Iran since the early months of the global pandemic.

Expert Panelists
firouzDr. Firouz Daneshgari, Surgeon-scientist, Professor and 3rd Chairman of Department of Urology at Case Western Reserve University. Founder of Urology Institute at University Hospitals of Cleveland, Founder and President of innovative health care company BowTie Medical aligned with Affordable Care Act. Extensively published over 200 scientific articles and book chapters, and his research has been continuously funded by National Institute of Health.  Affiliated with several hospitals across the US including many in Ohio. Recognized for his humanitarian and scholarly work internationally. Dr. Daneshgari is a recipient of numerous prestigious medical awards and currently focusing on international campaign to end COVID19 pandemic in Iran.

ZohrehDr. Zohreh Talebi, A Research Scientist and scholar practitioner in molecular biology, genetic and epigenetic factors. Dr. Talebi expertise is in systems biology approach such as linking genomic and phenotypic data with the focus on gene regulatory processes (such as X chromosome inactivation, noncoding RNAs, and alternative splicing). She has authored about 40 scientific articles and book chapters and frequently presented her research at National and International scientific conferences. In her field, Dr. Talebi has established and led a novel initiative called AutGO (Autism Genetics and Outcome) to promote partnership that draws on both genetics and clinical outcomes perspectives. COVID19 pandemic in Iran continues to be an area of interest and advocacy for Dr. Tablei. It is a great pleasure to have you with us today.“

SaeidDr. Saeid Sajadi, currently practices medicine at his 3 private offices. He is a graduate of University of Kansas School of Medicine, and he received training in internal medicine from University of Missouri in Kansas City. For more than 3 decades, he has fiercely advocated for a free Iran, which respects human rights and adheres to a democratic and inclusive political system. Since the outbreak of COVID19 pandemic, Dr. Sajadi has worked tirelessly to support medical professionals and healthcare practitioners in Iran with knowledge transfer, research information and best practices.

 Webinar Report

Dr. Azadeh Sami: Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to OIAC first webinar of 2021. My name is Azadeh Sami, I am practicing pediatrician in Washington DC area, public health researcher focusing on Iran and co-founder of OIAC’s Young Professionals. I have the privilege of moderating a very distinguished panel of Iranian American scholars, researchers and physicians. Our event today is being livestreamed via OIAC twitter and Youtube channel. I know may are following our event online as our webinar has reached its capacity. Let me say welcome to all of the attendees and media who have joined us today through this webinar or livestream. Please send us your questions in writing and as time permits, we will get to your questions at the end.

Our session today is focused on the recent remarks by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khameinie, who on January 8th announced that his regime will ban the import of any COVID-19 vaccines made in the United States, United Kingdom, or even France. Our expert panel today will examine the implications of Khamenei’s ban of internationally approved vaccine and what it means to the people of Iran. We, the Organization of Iranian Americans (OIAC) believe Khameinie’s statement is criminal and will lead to intentional mass killing of the most vulnerable population in Iran.

With that, let me begin with introducing our panelists. I am joined with:

Dr. Firouz Daneshgari, Surgeon-scientist, Professor and 3rd Chairman of Department of Urology at Case Western Reserve University. Founder of Urology Institute at University Hospitals of Cleveland, Founder and President of innovative health care company BowTie Medical aligned with Affordable Care Act. Dr. Daneshgari has been published in over 200 scientific articles and book chapters, and his research has been continuously funded by National Institute of Health. He is affiliated with several hospitals across the US including many in Ohio. Dr. Daneshgari is recognized for his humanitarian and scholarly work internationally and is recipient of numerous prestigious medical awards. Needless to say, he is currently focusing on international campaign to end COVID19 pandemic in Iran.

Dr. Daneshgari welcome and it’s an honor to have with us today.

Dr. Firouz Daneshgari:  Thank you and great to be here Dr. Sami. Look forward to our discussion on this topic.

Dr. Azadeh Sami: our next panelist is Dr. Zohreh Talebi. A Research Scientist and scholar practitioner in molecular biology, genetic and epigenetic factors. Dr. Talebi expertise is in systems biology approach such as linking genomic and phenotypic data with the focus on gene regulatory processes (such as X chromosome inactivation, noncoding RNAs, and alternative splicing). She has authored about 40 scientific articles and book chapters and frequently presented her research at National and International scientific conferences. In her field, Dr. Talebi has established and led a novel initiative called AutGO (Autism Genetics and Outcome) to promote partnership that draws on both genetics and clinical outcomes perspectives. COVID19 pandemic in Iran continues to be an area of interest and advocacy for Dr. Tablei. It is a great pleasure to have you with us today.

Dr. Zohre Talebi: Dr. Sami thank you so much and it’s an honor to be part of such a distinguished panel.

Dr. Azadeh Sami: last but not least, we are joined with Dr. Saeid Sajadi, who currently practices medicine at his 3 private offices. Dr. Sajadi is a graduate of University of Kansas School of Medicine where he received training in internal medicine from University of Missouri in Kansas City. For more than 3 decades, he has fiercely advocated for a free Iran, which respects human rights and adheres to a democratic and inclusive political system. Since the outbreak of COVID19 pandemic, Dr. Sajadi has worked tirelessly to support medical professionals and healthcare practitioners in Iran with knowledge transfer, research information and best practices. We are very pleased to have you with us today Dr. Sajadi.

Dr Saeid Sadjadi: Thank you Dr. Sami and delighted to join you all today.

Dr. Azadeh Sami: Wonderful. So, before we begin our main discussion, I think it is fitting to first understand how COVID 19 has impacted the people of Iran and how the regime has responded so far.

Dr. Azadeh Sami: This video had a key point how the regime responded to this pandemic so poorly and how the people of Iran continue to pay the highest price with their lives due to coverup, mismanagement and incompetence by this regime. The regime is also going out of its way to hide the true fatality rate. The good news is public demand for viable vaccine is on the rise. So, let’s begin with Dr. Daheshgari, Since the outbreak of the global pandemic we all have spoken about how the Iranian regime is deliberately using this virus as a weapon against the people of Iran. In fact, all of us have participated in various weekly online conference and public awareness campaigns (both in Farsi and English) to shed some light on the truth about preventive measures for the public, the health care professionals and the overall COVID19 situation in Iran. So, my question is, why would Khameinie come forward on January 8th to announce that his regime is banning the import of the internationally approved Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna and soon to come Johnson&Johnson vaccines? These vaccinations have 90% efficacy rate which substantially reduces the spread and death toll from COVID-19.

Dr. Firouze Daneshgari: Right, I think the best way to look at Khamenie’s call to ban these vaccines is not to question the efficacy of these impressive and incredible achievement by our colleagues across the scientific communities in US, UK and France. BUT to question Khameini’s motives. Let me outline some key facts:

  1. Who called the pandemic “not a big deal” or a “blessing”? Khamenei, we just saw it in the video you showed.
  2. Who stole over $1 billion in humanitarian funds that was released from country’s foreign currency reserve to help fight coronavirus? Khamenei and Rouhani back in March of this year. This was reported on extensively in farsi speaking media.
  3. Who refused to accept aid from the United States back in March, right around the time of Nourouz? Khameini, this was reported by Associated Press quoting Khamenie himself who repeated the lies and conspiracy theory that the virus was “man-made by America.” This is what he said and let me read it to you: “who in their right mind would trust America to bring them medication. Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.” This is AP report on March 22, 2020.
  4. Who ridiculed the concept of quarantining for the public but not for themselves? Rouhani and his deputy as we just saw in the video that you showed. They called it an outdated concept!
  5. Who expelled Doctors without Borders on March 24 and disband their treatment center that they had setup in the rural areas to help the public? Khamenei and his regime
  6. Who continued to authorize the IRGC’s Mahan Airline flights to China long after all other nations had banned flight to and from mainland China? Khamenei and the IRGC. Based on our research from April, Mahan Airline is responsible for spreading COVID19 to 17 other countries and it includes Iraq, Syria and others.
  7. Who has the most financial resources at his disposal to address the crisis, provide financial aid and accommodate meaningful lockdown so that the public can afford to stay home? In 2019, the US government announced Khamenei financial empire is worth an estimated of $200 billion. Meanwhile, our colleagues in Iran’s hospital, and I am talking about Doctors and Nurses in Iran, are left without pay, are left without protective gears, are left without access to the most basic treatment for their patients. And many of them have lost their lives. Based on our research and data that was published in November of 2020, over 160 physicians and nurses have died due to COVID-19. These numbers are heartbreaking and devastating and yet Khamenie chooses to hold on to his funds and inhumane policies.

So, if I were to sum it up, when it comes to Iran’s religious dictatorship, they are hellbent on using the virus as a weapon against the people of Iran and that is why they are walking away from reliable vaccines from US and UK. The international community should not allow this regime to play with public health in such way. We must not allow the issue of vaccine to become a political game for this regime. And all of us as medical professionals are extremely concerned about this inhumane decision which is a continuation of a yearlong regime policy of using the pandemic as a way to oppress the public.  Will do everything in our power to prevent the politicizing of the use of reliable vaccines for the people of Iran.

Dr. Azadeh Sami: I totally agree. Dr. Daneshgari, thank you for contextualizing the issue. Let me turn to Dr. Talebi, I think, we all agree everyone was caught off guard with this pandemic and there is still a lot to be learned about this virus, but this is a battle that needs to be fought globally. So, my question is how can we operate effectively, as researchers and medical professionals, when regimes like Iran are not a partner in dealing with this global pandemic and intentionally avoid state of the art vaccination and preventive options?

Dr. Zohreh Talebi: I have to agree with my colleague, Dr. Daneshgari that the Iranian regime is aggravating the country’s covid-19 crisis and undermining global public health norms.

Let’s take a step back for a minute and recognize that every country has been challenged with COVID19 pandemic. Each government has their own ways of dealing with the situation. Some use innovative and effective ways to deploy preventive and protective measures.  Some governments are going out of their way to create transparency for public awareness and response to this situation. And some are not. We are not even talking about democracies vs. dictatorships. For example, in recent weeks, even North Korea, who claims that it has not been impacted by COVID 19, has reached out to several European countries to obtain the vaccines.

So, this is our frame of reference comparing the two dictatorships: Iran and North Korea; and in this case, Khamenei chose to be even more inhuman than Kim Jong Un. I agree with your opening remarks —Dr. Sami—that this is a criminal act by Iran’s highest authority and could lead to yet another crime against humanity. The death toll is rising every day, just today I learned the number has exceeded 206,300 in 478 cities across Iran. Very sad and alarming figures!

I think it is important for us to pause and think about why Khamenei resorted to such a desperate measure and is willing to put people’s health and wellbeing at risk with this decision. Apart from regime’s role in the spread of the virus from China and Iran to other nations, we must remember that inadequate response in one country will surely put the Global Movement to end this pandemic At Risk. Iran is a member of WHO and the international community must hold the Iranian regime accountable for its recklessness and utter disregard for human life. Khamenei’s ban is intentional and purposeful. He is not interested to end the pandemic because he views it as a way to control the public and prevent another Nationwide uprising which could in fact bring his entire regime down. So, in his view, anything that can prolong his regime’s survival is welcomed even if it is a deadly virus like COVID19.

Dr Azadeh Sami: Great points and thank you for giving us the global perspective. I think you raise a good point about pausing to think about why the regime is doing this. Let’s take a minute to watch a short clip on Khameini’s remark as I believe it highlights the bigger problem this regime has with the rest of the world. Let’s watch.

There we have it, Dr. Sajadi, Khamenei directly challenges the significant scientific accomplishment and casting doubts on “reliability” of the vaccine or “trustworthiness” of the producers. In our discussion right before this panel, I noticed all of us have already been vaccinated because we are in the frontline and are committed to defeat this vaccine. Clearly such lies and fabrications by Khamenei is very alarming and feeds into the disinformation campaign from the highest level of this regime. You have been very active on the issue of public awareness and effective preventive measure which obviously for those of us in the field is very important. We all believe in this vaccine as it is instrumental in controlling the spread and saves lives. Yet as Dr. Daneshgari and Dr. Talebi pointed out, our colleagues in Iran are not only fighting the virus but they are also fighting a regime that is using the virus for political purposes, what are your thoughts? Will Khamenei’s decision lead to a crime against humanity?

Dr. Saied Sadjadi: When discussing the case of COVID and the related vaccine in Iran, it is of paramount importance to recognize that we are dealing with a regime which uses the pandemic as a tool to suppress a society yearning for freedom. In other countries, COVID is on the verge of bringing about a social change in various fronts, whereas in Iran Khomeini is fixated on using COVID for the purpose of stagnation of society, and to prevent uprising.

So it’s not all about being backward or anti-science, it’s solely about political interests and survival. Khamenei sees regime’s survival, in the survival of the COVID. That’s why Khamenei is against an effective vaccine for the people of Iran. From this perspective, one can see why he is for an ineffective, or perhaps a dangerous, vaccine.

We just saw the clip of Khamenei resorting to an obvious lie about the vaccines made in the West, banning the import of American and British vaccines, claiming that US and Britain “want to contaminate other nations.” Any evidence to this nonsense? What’s the objective of contaminating other nations?  It’s worth noting that every day, 100,000s of Americans and British get vaccinated with the same vaccines.

Khamenei adds that Iran could obtain vaccines “from other reliable places”. Well, that clearly suggests that there is currently no viable domestic vaccine being made.  Besides, Iran under Mullahs does not even produce its own flu vaccine, and it imports 2 million doses of flu vaccine annually. As usual, Khamenei offers no specific details about when and from where the vaccines are to be imported from.

Based on regime’s own data, mortality due to COVID is the highest in ME. However, the actual total death due to COVID is 5 times higher than the numbers Mullahs report, and it’s five times more than that as my colleague Dr. Talebi said. That’s why Iran needs reliable vaccines very badly to overcome this pandemic. Denying a nation of proven reliable vaccines, which could save lives of 100,000s of Iranians, is consistent with Crimes Against Humanity, and worthy of prosecution by international bodies.

It’s worth noting that Iran is the only country that its military apparatus is supposedly directing the fight against the COVID! In April, IRGC claimed that it had made a hand-held device, which can detect a contaminated person or area within five seconds throughout a radius of 100 meters thanks to a “magnetic system of resonance.” Now you can imagine what kind of domestic vaccine Khamenei is talking about…

While other countries have supported their people in the difficult economic times, partly to decrease spread of the virus by decreasing economic activity, the Mullahs in Iran have handed out only a $61 economic assistance to some families, which they are required to pay back at a later time. Let me give you one specific example, one of the questions Dr. Daneshgari raised earlier today about Khamenei’s financial resources, if you look at his Financial institutions built from national wealth, such as his Hedge Fund, the Setad, has enough funds to pay $100 per month to each individual in Iran for a period of one year. OR 1% of the wealth of this institution is enough to pay for the cost of purchasing vaccine for the entire country.  Think about that for a moment.  They have the money, but they chose not to use it for public wellbeing and fighting this deadly pandemic.

Based on the data from reliable sources from inside Iran, the highest rate of infection and mortality is among the poor and those who live below the poverty line, meaning 80% of the population. The people of Iran have to make a choice between putting food on the table snd dying from COVID.

Last but not least, I must say that Iran has ratified the the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This covenant is an international human rights treaty, and is legally binding.

The Article 12 of the covenant states that everyone has “the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” Then it specifically calls for the full realization of the above right, including “prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases.” We must hold Iran accountable to this obligation and push for lift of this illegal ban.

Dr. Azadeh Sami: Dr. Sajadi thank you for sharing such sobering points and detail as we look at the situation inside Iran and regime’s behavior, especially when it comes to its legal obligations based on international norms.

I’d like to pose next question to all the panelists. For too long the Iranian regime has blamed the US sanctions for its trouble including its ability to respond to the pandemic. Are sanctions really to be blamed? Let me start with you Dr. Daneshgari.

Dr. Firouz Daneshgari: Absolutely not! With sanctions or without sanctions this regime will continue to lie, cover up, cheat, and rob the Iranian people from their basic human rights, including the right to health as my colleague Dr. Sajadi just pointed out. Javad Zarif and Rouahani claimed Iran is a “victim” of US Sanctions back in April. It is very clear that under existing U.S. sanctions regulations provide a general authorization or license for companies to supply medicine, medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities to Iran and other embargoed countries. I know this firsthand because I am founder of a healthcare company and chairman of a humanitarian NGO. There is absolutely no legal hinderance for US or non-US persons to send or donate humanitarian goods to Iran without any specific approval. So, this claim continues to be absurd, pointless, and politically motivated. It is the regime itself that is sanctions the people intentionally and withholding healthcare, funds, and resources from the public.

Dr. Zohreh Talebi: I totally agree. I don’t want to get too deep into political discussion but the corruption, mismanagement, incompetence and regime’s indifference to public health did not start with the sanctions. If you just look at the comments by Khameini, first he underplayed the outbreak, spread misinformation about the source of the virus, then brought IRGC to the scene to manage the situation, now he bans the internationally approved vaccines. All these moves are coordinated with Rouhani and Zarif as they launched their echo chamber about the sanctions. The regime’s problems are self-inflicted and has nothing to do with the sanctions. I would like to add that as a scientist, I found it outrageous that someone who has no understanding of Medical Science makes a Health-related decision for 80 million people. This is an insult to the Iranian Scientific Community and disrespect to the basic human rights of Iranian people. Also, I would like to highlight that there is no question that scientific discoveries are evolving processes and the COVID19 vaccine is not an exception to this fundamental fact. That is why the COVID 19 vaccine is being administered under a highly regulated protocol to carefully monitor any unexpected side-effects, but it is different than misinforming public, fabricating facts, and ignoring scientific findings, which is what we see being done by Khamenei and his government.

Dr. Saied Sadjadi: I just wanted to add that Mullahs, themselves, are the main source of sanctions toward the Iranian people. They have sanctioned and denied the people of their every right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. As far as US sanctions, they do not target any access to medicine or medical equipment. IRGC and the terrorism and suppression apparatus of regime, which own the lion share of economy in Iran, are the main subjects of US sanctions. It’s interesting that those who claim US sanctions are causing devastation in Iran, now are quite when the regime is denying the people access to effective vaccines against the COVID.

Recently, 150,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine for COVID19, which were arranged for through a humanitarian effort in US, have been cancelled by Mullahs in Iran.

This tells us, more than ever, people’s health and survival depend on the success of the movement of people of Iran for freedom and democracy in Iran.

Dr. Azadeh Sami:  Very true indeed. So, let me just summarize, as you heard from all our speakers, such restriction on reliable COVID19 vaccines will lead to a crime against humanity in Iran. When it comes to Iran, we are dealing with a regime that has not stood on the side of people! Instead, is using the COVID19 pandemic to commit mass killings. I’d like to add call to action and recommendations, on behalf of more than 160 Iranian American medical professional and healthcare practitioners, about this  decision to ban the Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna vaccines:

  1. We welcome the statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) calling on Iran not to politicize the vaccination for the people of Iran.
  2. Iran is a member state of WHO. We urge WHO to enforce oversight and press for full transparency on COVID19 pandemic management and specifically demand that internationally approved vaccinations like Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna be made available to the people of Iran as soon as possible.
  3. We call on the international community to hold the regime in Tehran accountable for the sake of global health and humanity. Humanitarian aid and support for the people of Iran must go through WHO or other international bodies with supervision and monitoring.
  4. We are collectively urging the Washington, United Kingdom, the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization to condemn Khamenei’s remarks because it is with criminal intent and ignoring such travesty will lead to another crime against humanity in Iran.

So, with that, I know our time is very short but let me get to a couple of questions that we received:

The first question: Is it true that Khameini’s Setad is in charge of the development of the domestic vaccination?

Dr. Firouz Daneshgari: Very good question and thank you for raising this, yes, regime is promoting what they call “CovIran-Barekat” vaccine, which is under the direct supervision of Khamenie’s Setad. This hedge fund is a massive holdings company that Khamenie himself directly controls and this work is profitable for him personally. Dr. Sajadi talked about how that fund can be put to good use to save lives in Iran but that is not what the regime is doing. The real question is, will the effort be successful? The answer is no! as we discussed Iran does not have the know how or the right setup to develop a domestic vaccine. But even they can pull this through, it will be with significant delay which means more people will die in the meantime. Bottom line is there is no logical or rational decision to walk away from an internationally approved vaccine and delay saving lives. Khamenie’s decision is inhumane, illegal, and criminal.

Dr. Saied Sadjadi: I’d like to add to this, Khamenie’s focus is not to save lives, they are looking to profit and fund their terror groups in the region. This is a regime stands on inhumane practices against the people of Iran and terrorism against the people of the world. These are the two sides of the same coin.

Dr. Azadeh Sami: We have time for one more question, Dr. Talebi this question is for you, how did the Iranian people respond to Khamenie’s remark about the US and UK’s vaccines?                                                                           

Dr. Zohreh Talebi: This move has angered the people of Iran. In fact, people are saying how is it that when the Ayatollahs need medical treatment in Europe it is ok to travel to UK but when it come to the vaccine for the public it is not trustworthy!! The people see how the regime had made this a political issue and we must do everything we can to get the internationally approved and reliable vaccines to Iran to save lives.

Dr. Azadeh Sami: Thank you all so much. With that we will conclude our discussion today. Let me once again thank our panel and on behalf of OIAC, I thank all of you for joining us. Please follow us social media platforms twitter, Facebook, Instagram and our website is www.oiac.org.

Thanks again and have a great day everyone. Goodbye.

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