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Iran begins Covid-19 vaccination campaign, says state media

Last week the health ministry announced it bought two million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine
A member of staff holds a vial of the Iranian-made "Razi Cov Pars" coronavirus vaccine during an unveiling ceremony at the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute in the city of Karaj in the northern Alborz Province (AFP)

Iran has begun a mass vaccination role out to tackle to Covid-19, as the country continues to struggle with the worst outbreak of the virus in the Middle East.

State television said the vaccination campaign would begin on Tuesday.

"We begin our national vaccination against the Covid-19 virus... (in) memory of the martyrdom of health workers," Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said at a ceremony at a Tehran hospital. 

The Islamic republic is fighting the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, with over 58,000 lives lost out of more than 1.4 million cases of infection.

Iran has bought two million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told AFP last week.

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Health workers would be the first to get the jabs, followed by the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, Rouhani said following the announcement.

The president expressed hope that the first three categories would be inoculated before the Persian New Year on 21 March.

Russia registered the Sputnik V vaccine - named after the Soviet-era satellite - in August last year, before the start of large-scale clinical trials.

In addition to the Russian jab, Iran is expecting to receive 4.2 million doses of a vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca in February.

They were purchased via Covax, the mechanism for the equitable distribution of vaccines established by the UN World Health Organisation.

Iran started clinical trials of one of its own vaccines in late December, and according to Rouhani, they may become available by early summer.