JEDDAH: More than 350,000 people in Saudi Arabia have registered to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as the Kingdom’s rollout enters its third day.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Assistant Deputy Minister for Preventive Medicine Dr. Abdullah Asiri said that registration for the vaccine are increasing across the Kingdom, as well as the number of people receiving doses.
“We’re reaching our maximum capacity in a few days’ time,” he said, adding: “We’ll be then expanding to the western region and Eastern Province, then to the rest of the Kingdom.”
Asiri said that the second phase of the rollout will begin once authorities assess the number of registered high-risk group participants from the first phase, and ensure stable supply chains to deliver further vaccines.
“We expect that it will take one to two months in order to provide the vaccines for the high-risk groups before moving to the next phase,” he said.
Asiri said there is a “high” chance of registering a second vaccine before the end of the year, and that the Kingdom is also expecting to roll out the rest of the vaccines before March next year, following approval by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.
He urged the importance of increasing herd immunity to 70 percent when a sufficient number of people in the community receive the vaccine or contract the disease.
“Once we’ve reached that level, we might announce the end of the pandemic and possibly reduce or remove measures all together,” Asiri said.
Saudi Arabia’s residents will be given free vaccinations after three-phase testing of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine was announced, which showed strong immune responses and continuous antibodies.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Health announced 158 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, raising the total number over the course of the pandemic to 360,848.
There are 3,014 active cases, 425 of whom are critical.
In a rare occurrence for the Kingdom, the number of recoveries recorded on Saturday was fewer than the number of confirmed cases. Authorities reported 149 recoveries, raising the total number to 351,722. The Kingdom’s recovery rate remains steady at 97.4 percent.
There were 11 new virus-related deaths, raising the total mortality rate to 6,112.
More than 10.6 million polymerase chain reaction tests have been conducted in the Kingdom to date, after Saturday saw 33,676 tests completed around the Kingdom.