Developer Says Over 1.2 Million Iran Covid Vaccines ‘Lost’ | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

Shifa Pharmed officials’ contradictory remarks about the amount of Iran’s homegrown COVIran-Barakat vaccine produced so far has puzzled the public and even raised suspicions of a cyberattack on the production line.

Hojat Niki-Maleki, head of public relations at Shifa Pharmed, which is developing Iran’s homegrown vaccine COVIran-Barakat, was assailed for tweeting three weeks ago that nearly 4 million doses had been produced and then dropping the number to 2.05 million doses on July 2. He then said on Twitter July 4 that 1.2 million vials of the vaccine had been lost due to technical problems during production.

Niki-Maleki is also PR chief for the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, a charitable-cum-business organization answerable to the supreme leader, which owns Shifa Pharmed. COVIran Barakat has been developed under the lead of Dr Minoo Mohraz, an Aids specialist and professor of infectious diseases at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

Others involved with COVIran-Barakat appear in the dark over the 1.2 million doses Niki-Maleki suggested had been lost in production. Dr Mohraz, senior researcher and supervisor of clinical testing of COVIran-Barakat, said Wednesday that while she knew nothing about the issue, it could have happened as a result of contamination “a long time ago.”

Mohraz said the health ministry had received 400,000 doses of the vaccine with 550,000 to be delivered soon, but Dr Payam Tabarsi, a member of COVIran-Barakat’s clinical trial team, said Monday that the health ministry claimed there had been no delivery: “We are confused ourselves. We don’t know what has happened.”

In a tweet Wednesday, Tehran Times quoted Mohammad Marandi, a hardline pundit, saying that production of Covid-19 vaccines had been delayed “due to an American hostile act” which he was not authorized to explain. This raised suspicions of a cyberattack on Barakat facilities, where the vaccine is produced, but after a few hours Marandi denied making such remarks and Tehran Times removed the tweet. Niki-Maleki in a tweet on Thursday denied US sabotage of COVIran production.

COVIran-Barakat was approved for emergency use in mid-June, to be available for mass vaccination before the end of June. Niki-Maleki claimed June 2 that 1.2 million doses were being produced weekly and promised over 50 million doses would be produced by the end of September.

In May Mohammad Mokhber, head of the executive taskforce of Headquarters for the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, claimed more than 10 million vaccine doses would be available for the health ministry by July. On July 2 he said that 2.7 million doses had been produced and 400,000 made available to the health ministry, and that by the end of September 50 million doses would be produced. Amid the confusion, slightly over two percent of Iranians have been fully inoculated.

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