JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health is aiming to offer free vaccines to 70 percent of citizens and expats in the Kingdom who have not yet contracted the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Officials are hoping to have met the target for inoculations by the end of next year.
“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr. Abdullah Asiri, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary for preventive health.
However, under-16s are not to be vaccinated unless research or tests prove there to be a need, he added.
He noted that the Kingdom planned to announce a clear schedule of vaccinations arrival to the country in the coming weeks.
“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organization, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing.
“Saudi Arabia will obtain a large amount of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is direct contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Asiri said.
COVAX is a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries around the world with equitable access to safe and effective vaccines once they are licensed and approved.
Asiri pointed out that obtaining effective vaccines required a long preparation plan and supply chain, and time for the vaccine to arrive in large enough quantities to the countries requiring it.
“Therefore, what will be released this year is not expected to be in the large quantities that would affect the pandemic’s trajectory, which isn’t expected before mid-2021,” he added.
Assistant to the minister of health and official spokesman, Dr. Muhammad Al-Abd Al-Aly, said that the ministry would only provide COVID-19 vaccines that were effective against the virus, had no side effects, and were approved by the authorities concerned with granting licenses.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recorded 19 new COVID-19-related deaths on Monday taking to 5,796 the total number of people in the country who had now died after contracting the virus.
There were 231 new cases reported in the Kingdom, putting the total so far at 355,489. Officials said 5,877 cases were still active, of which 765 patients were in a serious or critical condition.
According to the Ministry of Health, 46 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, 18 in Makkah and Jeddah, and 11 in Madinah.
In addition, 445 patients had recovered from COVID-19, moving the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom up to 343,816.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 9,295,599 polymerase chain reaction tests, with 40,395 carried out in the last 24 hours.