Iran says the U.S. has approved a transfer of funds to purchase the COVID vaccine

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has received US approval to transfer funds for coronavirus vaccines from overseas countries, the head of the central bank said on Thursday, while its daily mortality fell to a three-month low.

Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said that the Iranian bank received support from the Office for the Control of Foreign Assets of the American Treasury to transfer the money to a Swiss bank to pay for the vaccine.

“They (the Americans) have imposed sanctions against all our banks. “They accepted this one case under the pressure of world public opinion,” Hemmati told state TV.

There was no immediate U.S. reaction to Hemmati’s remarks.

Hemmati said Iran would pay about $ 244 million for the initial import of 16.8 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, a multi-agency group dedicated to ensuring fair access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said U.S. sanctions prevent them from paying COVAX, to which about 190 economies have applied.

Iranian Shifa Pharmed began registering volunteers for human testing the country’s first domestic candidate for the COVID-19 vaccine this week, Iranian media reported, as a factional dispute over the use of imports appeared to be brewing.

“We do not recommend injecting foreign coronavirus vaccines to Revolutionary Guard and Basia (volunteer militia) personnel,” Iranian newspaper quoted Mohammed Reza Naqdi, deputy chief of the hard guard, as saying.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Larry told state TV earlier that 152 people had died from COVID-19 in Iran in the past 24 hours, the lowest number since Sept. 18, leaving a total of 54,308 in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.

The drop in mortality comes after more than a month of night curfew and other restrictions in major cities. Police said 96,000 fines were issued nationwide for violating curfew on Wednesday.

Officials warned that the danger of reviving the infection is great.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers in 2015 and imposed new sanctions on that country.

The coming to power of newly elected President Joe Biden has increased the possibility that Washington could rejoin the agreement.

Reporting from the Dubai newsroom; Editing Nick MacfieEditing Mark Heinrich and Nick Macfie