Inside Iran's pandemic frontline

Like thousands of key workers around the world, Iranian nurse Somayeh Hosseinzadeh spent the first 40 days of the pandemic on the hospital frontlines.

As a supervisory nurse, Hosseinzadeh and her colleagues provided the majority of patient's day-to-day care, working back-to-back shifts even on vacation days as the number of hospitalized cases was on the rise daily.

"Many of our colleagues got infected, but they continue their work more determinedly than before, because they themselves have suffered this pain and they are trying to get better in order to take care of patients."

Separated from her family for 40 days, she described the first few months as a "war scene."

Iran's health ministry says 60% of nurses have been infected with the coronavirus and ten months on, Hosseinzadeh's uniform still consists of a mask, double gloves, a cap, a hazmat suit, and overshoes.

To remove all these at the end of the day is delicate and complicated, she says, but necessary in order for her to safely go home.

Iran has been the worst-hit country in the Middle East by the global pandemic.

It launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate on Tuesday (December 29) - according to state media.

Tehran says it could help it defeat the virus - despite U.S. sanctions interfering with its ability to import vaccines.

Setad, a giant state-affiliated conglomerate, said production of the vaccine could reach 12 million doses per month, six months after a successful trial ends.

The first volunteers to take the vaccine were officials of the conglomerate and the daughter of its head - an apparent effort to boost public confidence in the vaccine