To the editor:
When I received my second COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine shot for free in Mankato in early June, I also received a $10 dollar grocery store gift card as a reward. It was sort of funny, but cute.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, where I emigrated from more than two decades ago, COVID-19 vaccine rollouts have been extremely slow and people are desperate to get them. There seems to be no vaccine hesitancy. Based on what I see in the news and social media, average Iranians would regard themselves immensely fortunate if they managed to get even the Chinese or Russian versions, let alone the American Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer vaccines, which are the stuff of dreams and fantasy for most Iranians right now.
According to some social media postings, smuggled Pfizer vaccines have surfaced in the Iranian black market and cost around one hundred dollars a dose--in a country where the most typical salary is around $7,000 a year, according to the Average Salary Survey website. Imagine buying your vaccine from a drug dealer in a shady neighborhood for about $1000.
In recent days, many Iranians have flocked to the Republic of Armenia, a small former Soviet republic bordering Iran to the northwest, to get vaccinated. It could easily cost an Iranian several hundred dollars to do so. Apparently, flights to Armenia from Iran are sold out until August, and the limited ground border crossing between Iran and Armenia is suddenly jammed by thousands of desperate Iranians trying to get to Armenia to get vaccinated.
Some people end up sleeping by the roadside in the middle of nowhere at the border crossing in hopes of getting to Armenia to get the free shots offered to all tourists and foreign visitors to the country.
I am sure there are many similar stories from around the world about the scarcity and high cost of COVID-19 vaccines that we do not hear about much here in America, where the vaccines are plentiful and free. Let's keep things in perspective.