JEDDAH: The first batch of the coronavirus vaccine is set to arrive in the Kingdom and will be available for distribution in weeks.
According to a video posted on social media by the infectious diseases expert Dr. Nezar Bahabri, who has been Saudi Arabia’s voice of reason during the pandemic, the vaccines are set to arrive in special distribution fridges designed to keep the vaccines at -80 C using dry ice (a requirement for the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine).
They require specialist cooling equipment to keep the vaccines at the necessary temperatures for 10 days. The vaccine, known as BNT162b2, will need to be kept at a temperature of -70C. It will be packed with dry ice to ensure it maintains its safety and can be delivered in full efficacy through the Saudi Arabian Logistics (SAL) center at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport.
SAL CEO Omar Hariri said all operational capabilities were “in a state of maximum readiness” in coordination with health authorities, while Saudi Arabian Airlines recently announced that it had readied its fleet to transfer the vaccines in record time.
The Kingdom announced in November that it would be among the first countries in the world to obtain the vaccines.
Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly confirmed that an advisory board and relevant health authorities, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority in coordination with the ministry, would provide the necessary approvals upon the vaccines’ arrival.
They will also provide information on the means of storing and distributing the vaccines, its usage and centers with vaccine availability as well as recommended priority for residents, especially the most vulnerable and high-risk groups, according to the spokesman.
He added that information on the electronic platforms to register for vaccinations would be provided at a later time.
Saudi Arabia said that the first batch would be given to those who had not been infected by coronavirus. The country has signed agreements with a number of countries to provide vaccines, including one with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to produce the first vaccine for coronavirus as well as one with a German firm to distribute the vaccine.
The spokesman said the rate of infection had decreased significantly in the past week across most regions and had shown some stability, describing it as a “positive indicator.”
He said a spike in Al-Jouf had been noted in the past two weeks but that cases were confined to the region. Relevant authorities, with the help of the region’s residents, were working to ensure a decrease in cases, he added.
For the second day in a row Saudi Arabia recorded numbers below the 200 case mark. There were 187 cases reported on Sunday, raising the total number to 358,713.
Riyadh had the highest-recorded case count with 36 patients confirmed in the past 24 hours, Yanbu had 21, Jeddah had 17 and Damman had 12 new cases.
There are currently 3,869 active cases, 600 of which are in critical care. The total number of recoveries reached 348,879 as 317 new recoveries were recorded. The recovery rate is 97.2 percent.
The number of daily fatalities is also decreasing, with 11 new deaths reported by the ministry.
The death toll is now 5,965. There were 32,790 PCR tests carried out in the past 24 hours.
The ministry’s Taakad and Tatamman centers has provided services to over 7 million patients. Its 937 call center has received over 22.3 million calls, with specialists providing advice and medical consultations.