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Updated 17 June 2021

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has begun rolling out its vaccination campaign in mid-December of last year, 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.

Since then, hundreds of vaccination centers have been set up across the Kingdom to expand the vaccination effort.

Vaccines available in Saudi Arabia

Pfizer/BioNTech is currently being used at all vaccination centers in the KSA. To boost the effort, The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) authorized the importation and use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in January.

 

Who can get vaccinated in Saudi Arabia now?

All citizens and expatriates over the age of 16 are allowed to register for the vaccine. The Saudi authorities have stated that those aged 16 and above will be inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine while its citizens and residents aged 18 and above will be assigned the Astrazeneca shots. Health authorities are now undertaking studies and trials for vaccinating people between the ages of 12 and 18

Furthermore, pregnant women in Saudi Arabia can now register to take the coronavirus vaccine as announced by the Ministry of Health. Studies indicate that the vaccine presents no harm to pregnant women or the foetus based on reports from over 35,000 women in the United States who received either the Moderna or Pfizer shots while pregnant. 

The inoculation campaign in Saudi Arabia 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.

Saudi Arabian authorities have now announced that the second dose of the Covid vaccine would only be available to those under the following five categories at the moment:

  • Patients on kidney dialysis
  • Active cancer patients
  • Patients who have underwent organ transplants
  • Patience who were obese
  • Patients over 60

As of 17 June 2021, Saudi Arabia has administered at least 16 million doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs 2 doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 23.5% of the country’s population.

 

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. 

Alternatively, you can simply call 937.

 

Where to get vaccinated in Saudi Arabia?

The government has set up more than 587 centers all around Saudi Arabia which includes drive-through centers. Pharmacies across the Kingdom are also providing vaccines for free.

Check the Pfizer vaccination centres in Riyadh and Jeddah here.

You can see the complete list of vaccination centres in the country on the Sehaty app.

 

Benefits for KSA residents

With many social and public places opening up across the Kingdom with regulations and restrictions on unvaccinated citizens, getting vaccinated is bound to become irreplaceable for travel or entry.

  • Travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine upon arrival in Saudi Arabia as announced by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), but they must have vaccination certificates that have been attested by authorities in their home country.
  • From August onwards, residents must show proof of vaccination to enter government offices, use public transportation, attend schools and other activities.
  • Similarly, employees will only be allowed to return to their workplace in person once vaccinated against Covid-19. According to the Ministry of Human Resources vaccination will become a “mandatory condition” for the face-to-face return of public and private sector employees.
  • Saudi Arabia will bar people from entering its shopping malls unless they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, citing a decision by the Trade Ministry that will come into effect on Aug 1. Having received at least one vaccine shot will be a condition for entering commercial facilities
  • The Hajj Ministry said this year’s pilgrimage would be “open for only vaccinated nationals and residents of the kingdom, limited to 60,000 pilgrims”

 

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, the university has started the first phase of clinical trials after proving its efficacy against the virus in laboratory 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.