Updated 23 February 2021
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has begun rolling out its vaccination campaign on 17 December 2020, a mere week after approving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency state-wide use. Among the first ones to be inoculated in Riyadh were the Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah and a number of other citizens.
Vaccines available in Saudi Arabia
Pfizer/BioNTech is currently being used at all vaccination centers in the KSA. To boost the effort, The Saudi Ministry of Health has approved vaccines by AstraZeneca and Moderna for use early this year. AstraZeneca vaccine produced by The Serum Institute of India is set to head to Saudi Arabia in February 2021.
Saudi Arabia vaccination program
Following the initial shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Saudi Arabia COVID vaccination program was immediately rolled out to the general public. The inoculation 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.
However, no details regarding specific dates for phase three have emerged as of yet.
Registering for the vaccination program
The Saudi government has made it clear that the vaccination jabs will be provided free of charge for all residents who have not yet contracted the virus. Through the Ministry of Health, the Saudi authorities are inviting all Saudis and expats to register for the vaccine by utilizing the Sehaty app.
Following the download, users may then enter their personal information and apply for the jab. Users will typically receive a text message within 48 hours of submitting the application detailing the date and location of the appointment.
Thousands of people have been flocking to vaccination centers in Riyadh, Jeddah, and the Eastern Province to receive the vaccine against the coronavirus disease. As of 18 January 2021, Saudi Arabia has administered the vaccine close to 300,000 of its people with no significant side effects reported.
Progress on Saudi Arabia’s own vaccine
The kingdom’s own vaccine is being developed by a team of researchers at the Institute for Research and Medical Consultations (IRMC) affiliated with the Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University. After clearing preclinical studies, it’s now heading to clinical trials.
According to the research paper published by the team, the vaccine has been effective so far in producing antibodies that target the virus when used on animals.
The experimental vaccine will go through rigorous testing and more clinical stages before it’s approved for use by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.
Update as of 10 February: The university has started the first phase of clinical trials after proving its efficacy against the virus in laboratory trials.
Over 541,000 individuals in the Kingdom have already been vaccinated against the virus till 22 February.
On 22 February, 16 new vaccination centres have been inaugurated in military hospitals across Saudi Arabia to inoculate defense ministry workers.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) authorised the importation and use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on 18 February.