First study to ascertain the safety and effectiveness of a locally produced coronavirus vaccine in Iran began on Tuesday, state TV reported.
Dozens of people are billed to receive the domestically developed shot in the hardest-hit country in the Middle East.
The vaccine, produced by Shifa Pharmed, part of a state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate, is the first in the country to reach human trials.
President Hassan Rouhani has said Iran is cooperating with a “foreign country” to produce another vaccine expected to run in tests in human volunteers in February, without offering further details.
Iran has struggled to stem the worst virus outbreak in the region, which has infected over 1.2 million people and killed nearly 55,000.
The study, a Phase 1 clinical trial, will enroll a total of 56 volunteers to receive two shots of Iran’s vaccine within two weeks, according to Hamed Hosseini, a clinical trial manager, with results to be announced roughly a month after the second shot.
Three people received the first injections on Tuesday at a ceremony at a Tehran hotel attended by the country’s health minister. Authorities expect to the vaccine to hit the market by end of 2021.
Tayebeh Mokhber, daughter of the Barekat Pharmaceutical Group chairman, who was the first to get vaccinated, expressed;
I am happy that the scientific process went ahead in a proper way. I hope the conclusion will be health for our people.
The treatment, dubbed Coviran, is a so-called inactivated vaccine, meaning that it is made of a coronavirus that has been weakened or killed by chemicals, similar to how polio immunizations are made.
Leading Western vaccines, like the shot made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, use newer, less-proven technology to target the coronavirus’ spike protein using RNA.
Still, with progress slow in Iran’s vaccine research as Western countries grant approval for emergency use of vaccines and kick off mass inoculation campaigns, Iranian authorities have stressed the need to import vaccines.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has decreased in Iran in recent weeks due to a strict lockdown, though the number of new daily infections remains at almost 6,000 and fatalities at over 120.
Since the pandemic broke out, Iran has seen more than 54,000 coronavirus-related deaths and over 1.2 million infections.