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Iranians Demand a COVID-19 Vaccine, Not Politics, From Their Leaders

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BEIRUT — When Iran’s supreme leader banned U.S. and other Western-made COVID-19 vaccines earlier this month, he did so even as his country’s death toll from coronavirus nears 60,000 and its total caseload exceeds 1.3 million, making it the Middle East’s worst-hit country and the 16th-most afflicted nation in the world.

The coronavirus has surged this winter, pushing Iran to the brink of a humanitarian disaster as hospitals and healthcare networks fail to keep up. With the economy savaged by U.S. sanctions, drugs and medical equipment are in short supply, leaving thousands without vital care and scores dying every day. Many doctors believe that the pandemic’s death toll in Iran is three to four times higher than the official figure.

But another factor in the crisis has been Iran’s leadership, which many in the country say is playing politics with what should be purely a public health matter and complicating a vaccine rollout for the country’s 82 million people.

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