Role of the Ministry of Intelligence and the Judiciary to issue the authorization for the Iranian vaccine

Documents obtained from the hack by Ali’s Justice Group from the JudiciaryJudiciary further reinforce the possibility of political pressure on the scientific review process of Iranian Coronavirus vaccines.

At a time when the coronavirus pandemic was taking lives in Iran, and the frontline forces of Iran’s health system were under crushing pressure from the flood of patients, lack of infrastructure and equipment, and, more importantly, the country’s unpreparedness to deal with a viral pandemic, Iranian officials turned one of the most important hopes for saving people’s lives into a politically and security-charged issue.

The global scientific community’s achievement in producing an effective vaccine for an emerging viral disease is one of the milestones of contemporary medical history. The time it took for production, testing, mass production, distribution, and vaccination was a historic record for vaccine development in the history of global viral pandemics.

While the world was aware of the emergence of a viral pandemic shortly, it was not at all prepared. When faced with the crisis, it tried to test some of the measures that could have been prepared during the crisis. It adjusted its course based on the data that was updated daily.

Numerous problems existed worldwide in dealing with this pandemic. However, when the story reached Iran, it became contaminated with a thousand and one unrealistic issues. The people paid the price with their lives and health, and many who were freed from this disease had to endure its effects on their bodies for many years, the effects of which are still unknown.

The climax of politicization regarding the vaccine

Despite health officials’ non-transparent communication, it has sometimes simplified explanations of the issue. Hesitation in dealing with the pandemic before Dey,19th, 1399  (Jan, 8th, 2021), it seemed that the highest authority of the Islamic Republic had taken a sensible path. In speeches, his general advice was to follow medical recommendations.

But all these hopes ended that day with a speech by Ali Khamenei. In one of the speeches that will be recorded in Iran’s medical history, he talked about banning the import of American, British, and French vaccines, which health ministry officials and other authorities took as a “government decree.” He launched a destructive campaign to invalidate the most effective vaccines.

Interestingly, the ban on importing a vaccine like Pfizer occurred while the development team that had advanced the technology of this vaccine had won the Mustafa Prize, the most expensive governmental scientific award in Iran, the year before.

The politicization of the vaccine issue was repeated several times, including the childish insistence of the supreme leader that he would only want an Iranian vaccine.

Iran, which had not made progress in the general vaccine industry for years, suddenly entered a fierce competition to develop a vaccine. The influential Barakat company, as well as the political support it received from the authorities, was seeking to obtain emergency authorization for its vaccine.

While some parts of the scientific body that was supposed to oversee this process quickly and for various reasons turned to quasi-critique of the efficacy of the best available vaccines in the world and defended the still undeveloped technology of the Iranian vaccine, the primary responsibility for confirming efficacy, according to the law, rested with the Food and Drug Administration of the Ministry of Health. A place that was supposed to be the last bastion to transfer some relative assurance about the nature and efficacy of the Iranian-made vaccine to society.

Although many mechanisms were not considered in issuing emergency authorization for the Barakat vaccine and subsequent Iranian samples, documents published due to Ali’s Justice Group’s hack of the JudiciaryJudiciary show a significant effort to invalidate even these few internal system supervisions.

The Ministry of Intelligence accuses

An incident that shows how the Iranian system, by playing with the minimum supervisory policies of the health structure and infiltrating politicization into all components, not only silenced and invalidated any efficiency that this system was supposed to exhibit but also served as a lesson for any institution or individual who might want to correctly and fundamentally carry out their work somewhere that does not align with the system’s policies, even based on domestic laws.

According to documents published on the Ordibehesht,2nd, 1400 (April 22nd, 2021), while Iranian vaccines had not yet been authorized, a letter/report from the General Directorate of Judicial Affairs of the Ministry of Intelligence was sent to the Judiciary and the attorney general. In this letter/report, the Ministry of Intelligence accused individuals in the Ministry of Health of sabotage in issuing necessary authorizations for the vaccine. In a letter published in the Judiciary documents, this accusation is stated as follows:

“Creating disruption and sabotage in the various stages of producing domestic Corona vaccines, such as prolonging the review of laboratory results and not issuing legal authorizations with various and baseless excuses, by some elements and officials in the Food and Drug Administration, to create a delay and diversion in the path of producing the Iranian Corona vaccine and ultimately defeat the related projects in the country and implying the inefficiency of the Islamic Republic in providing health has been done,…by some elements and officials in the Food and Drug Organization for various and baseless excuses to create delays and deviations in the path of producing the Iranian Corona vaccine and, ultimately, leading to the failure of related projects in the country and suggesting the inefficiency of the Islamic Republic in providing health, during which three individuals involved in this matter, namely Ms. Saideh Fakhrzadeh, head of the Biological Department of the Food and Drug Organization, Mr. Seyed Alireza Hosseini, head of the Clinical Trials Department of the Food and Drug Organization, and Mr. Bahman Abedi Kiasari, a former employee of the Razi Institute, were referred to the first branch of inquiry and … which resulted in orders including travel bans and review of financial transactions and information of the mentioned individuals.”

This report also mentions that the General Directorate of Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Intelligence, in another report dated Khordad, 30th, 1400 (June 20th, 2021), has declared that “conflicts of interest, upper echelon pressures, and political and economic tendencies have caused a shift in the professional and scientific direction of the Corona vaccine trials… The importance of the stance has become more evident than before, and a serious follow-up on the matter in the intelligence and security domain is deemed very necessary.”

An essential point in this letter is that the report states: “Considering the existing sensitivities and the possibility of exploitation by adversaries or disruptions in the process of producing the Corona vaccine and preventing the creation of a negative mindset in society, you sought guidance from the honourable Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Tehran, who decreed that investigations continue without arrests.”

The Barakat vaccine received its emergency use authorization on  Khordad 23rd  (June 13th, 2021), and after that, other vaccines, including Noora, received their authorizations.

Articles published about these vaccines in international journals, which were introduced as a document of their success, later received corrections or were retracted. For instance, in the articles about Barakat, issues of conflict of interest caused severe revisions. Regarding the Noora vaccine article, there were such strange errors (such as the most straightforward issue like the mismatch in the number of test subjects with the total results announced) that this article was retracted entirely and voided.

Speculations about Security Pressure on Scientific Oversight

We do not know to what extent the pressures of the Ministry of Intelligence and the Judiciary have played a role in issuing the license, but given that the report mentions the interrogation of two foremost directors overseeing the process, namely Saideh Fakhrzadeh, head of the Biological Department of the Food and Drug Organization, and Seyed Alireza Hosseini, head of the Clinical Trials Department, the impact of such pressure on issuing the license is not far-fetched.

Especially considering that when the Ministry of Intelligence interrogates a manager of a body that has the duty of oversight on political motives, the news will undoubtedly reach the subordinate employees, and concerns for their security will manifest in the findings.

Another critical point in this story is that no scientific, health, or medical authority has raised and reported such concerns to the Ministry of Intelligence. With a security and politicized view, this ministry attributes the non-issuance of licenses to the personal motives of individuals responsible for overseeing the safety and efficacy of these vaccines.

Remember that on Khordad, 18th  1400 (June 8th, 2021), a week before Barakat’s authorization, the Ethics Committee in Research of the Ministry of Health published a letter addressed to the then Minister of Health (Dr. Seyed Alireza Hosseini was also a member of this committee) warning about the rush in issuing emergency authorization and the concerns about it.

Now we know that this letter was published when the central managers overseeing the health and efficacy of the clinical trial were interrogated by the Ministry of Intelligence and the Judiciary, possibly providing a more accurate understanding of the reasons for publishing this letter.

In the second report of the Ministry of Intelligence, conflicts of interest and political and economic biases of individuals are mentioned. Interestingly, such concerns about conflicts of interest came while a significant portion of the people involved in producing and reporting this vaccine were facing severe conflicts of interest that even led to revisions in the article reporting the vaccine’s performance.

Another part of this letter refers to upper-echelon pressures. Naturally, the upper echelon in charge of the Ministry of Health’s clinical trials and biological security would be the Minister of Health and, at a higher level, the President.

Unanswered Questions

Let’s assume this report is honest and based on data that justifies such accusations. In that case, more critical questions arise:

Why didn’t the Ministry of Intelligence and the Judiciary file cases against these upper echelon forces and the person of the Minister of Health and the President?

Why were these individuals accused of disrupting the drug production process, antagonism against national interests, and sabotaging the health process of the people, not arrested, suspended from work, and the prosecutor recommends that the investigations continue without arrest? Is an action that leads to the death of thousands something that can be so easily overlooked?

Why is no news of this “conspiracy” published after the end of the critical period?

Which scientific or medical institution confirms such a claim?

Now that the international publication of these vaccine reports has faced severe criticisms, has any action been taken against those who, due to conflicts of interest or economic gain, manipulated data and gambled with the reputation of the Iranian scientific community on such a crucial issue?

All these points together seem to indicate a conclusion that critics have been paying attention to and warning about since the beginning of the pandemic, that when the health of the people and society, and scientific matters become contaminated with politicization, when the illusion of national security or a powerful and authoritative image of the structure is valued more than people’s lives, when in scientific matters, security and intelligence agencies have more influence than the scientific community, not only are the lives and health of the people put at risk and the public’s trust in the health system eroded, but also the path is opened wider for pseudoscience and profiteering, resulting in what we see today; people who rightfully do not trust the health structure, dedicated doctors who are exhausted and under pressure from sacrificing their lives for their work, and sometimes so cornered that they must decide to emigrate from the country or submit to the conditions of a politicized health market.

A battle that puts us all at risk

This story is only one aspect of the battle against science, which has flared up in various parts of the world. Everywhere, people with different motives are fanning its flames.

Suppose we do not resist such a structure and give in to it. In that case, we might eventually remain in a world driven by greed and a humanity that will set foot on the path of downfall despite its potential for progress.

Leave a Reply