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Updated 9 April 2021

Saudi Arabia, along with the rest of the world, is still battling the pandemic and its rising cases. While the COVID situation in Saudi Arabia is generally under control, the country is hoping to back to normal post-COVID life soon enough with the advent of the vaccination program.

Find out more about the Pfizer shots in Saudi Arabia.

How does the Pfizer vaccine work?

Among the available COVID-19 vaccines, there are four distinct types, namely, whole virus (this can again be a weakened form or inactivated coronavirus), protein subunit, nucleic acid (RNA or DNA), and viral vector.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-29 vaccine BNT162b2 is a messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccine meaning that the vaccine carries genetic instructions that help the recipient’s cells to produce protein pieces that trigger immune system response. The response is in form of the reproduction of millions of copies of spike protein which stimulates the making of antibodies.

This is the same spike protein that is available in the coronavirus and used to enter the cells in the human body. If a sufficient number of antibodies are produced in the human body with the mRNA vaccine, they will prevent the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from proliferating, thus protecting the recipient from COVID-19.

How effective is the Pfizer vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine works best with two doses where the second one is registered 21 days after the first one. On administration of the first dose, the immune system is alerted, and post the second one, it gets a boost, thus providing the immunity to fight off the virus. Efficacy is 52% after the first dose and raises up to 95% after the second jab. So, it takes around four weeks to build immunity after the first dose (could happen earlier as well).

It is, however, not particularly known how long the vaccine immunity will last. Insights regarding the Pfizer COVID vaccine’s long term effects are clouded as trials weren’t set up to answer the same. CEO of BioNTech Sahin expects it to be months or possibly even years before the vaccine recipient becomes vulnerable to COVID-19 infection again. Eleanor Riley at the University of Edinburgh in the UK mentioned that we might have to resort to annual boosters.

It is also strongly recommended that you should complete the vaccine course i.e. take both the doses before you leave the city.

Are there any reported side effects?

As far as safety is concerned, the Pfizer vaccine has an overall great safety profile with its benefits outweigh the potential risks. Based on safety data collected from 37,586 participants enrolled in an ongoing phase 3 clinical trial, the most commonly reported side effect involves volunteers experiencing an injection site reaction (seen in almost 84% of those who received the vaccine).

So, if you are taking the vaccine, know that the injection site on your arm might hurt a little, show some redness, and get swollen a bit. You might also experience difficulties in moving your arm freely. Other known side effects of the Pfizer vaccine includes:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pains
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache

Severe reactions were rare with four cases of Bell’s palsy being reported during the trial. However, there is no clear evidence that the cause of this temporary paralysis was the vaccine. Adverse allergic reactions are also possible and hence those who experienced any major allergic reaction during the first dose of the vaccine are being advised not to take the second one.

Pfizer vaccination in Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia kicked off its COVID vaccination drive with the Pfizer vaccine on 17 December, 2020, only a week after authorizing it for emergency use, and became one of the first countries in the Middle-East in doing so. Among the first ones to be inoculated in Riyadh were the Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah and a number of other citizens.

Who’ll get the Pfizer vaccine first?

The vaccination campaign adopts a three-tier approach as follows.

  • The first tier will see people most at risk of the disease prioritized for the jab along with those with chronic ailments or at a high risk of infection.
  • The second tier is reserved for those aged over 50.
  • The third tier will vaccinate everyone else.

Where do I get the Pfizer shots in Saudi Arabia?

Pfizer/BioNTech is currently being used at all vaccination centers set up in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Region.

You’ll be notified about your vaccination centre once you complete the registration process.

Registering for the jabs

Eligible citizens can book their vaccination appointments through the Sehaty app.

  • Enter the (Sehaty) App link on Google Play or Apple Store.
  • Register your data.
  • Click on (Corona Vaccine) to submit your request to receive the vaccine.
  • Your eligibility to receive the vaccine is evaluated according to the information entered.

How much will the Pfizer vaccine cost?

The Saudi authorities announced back in Movember that the vaccination jabs will be provided free of charge to everyone living in the country.

Latest updates on the Pfizer vaccine

More than a million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in the Kingdom within a week, as of April 9, raising the overall figure to 5 million. There have been no vaccine-related deaths in the country.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health announced it is expanding its coronavirus (COVID-19) inoculation campaign to reach a wider segment of society. Over 587 vaccinations centers have been set up in different areas around the Kingdom to ensure that all citizens and residents can receive their dose, according to the ministry.

The ministry said that the registered priority groups have been covered and it will make vaccinations available to other groups. There are plans to launch more vaccination centers across all regions of the Kingdom, with the cooperation of public and private health service providers.