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Iran has begun its vaccine rollout with Russia’s Sputnik V, but a labyrinth of government crackdowns, cover-ups, and conspiracy theories have cast a shadow over the nation’s pandemic response. In the past year, the Iranian government has denied the pandemic’s spread within its borders; falsified official data on pandemic deaths; introduced a dud “coronavirus detector,” and banned the importation of American and British vaccines.

According to government officials, Iran’s vaccine rollout will occur in four phases, starting with a projected vaccination goal of 18 million in medical staff and vulnerable populations by next winter, when general public vaccination begins. But, as one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, much of the damage has already been done: the Islamic Republic’s reported COVID-19 death toll is nearing 60,000, the highest in the Middle East; its economy, which had already been mired by low global oil prices, mismanagement, corruption, and U.S….

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