Saudi Arabia opens registration for Covid vaccine

Health Ministry plans to administer inoculation over three stages

FILE PHOTO: A Saudi family wearing protective face masks walk on Tahlia Street as nightlife kicks off, after the government loosened lockdown restrictions following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 21, 2020. Picture taken June 21, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo
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The Saudi Ministry of Health opened registration for Covid-19 vaccinations, the kingdom's official press agency reported on Tuesday.

The vaccine will be provided free to all Saudi residents and citizens, with registration via the Sehhaty mobile application, the Saudi Press Agency announced.

The kingdom approved the inoculation by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech last Thursday. It passed all of the health ministry's testing stages and provided a "strong immune response and antibodies" during trials.

The so-called "mRNA vaccine" contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognise the spiked protein on the surface of the virus. To be inoculated, a person is given two vaccinations over 21 days.

"The authority held several meetings to study the data provided by the company, which included meetings with local and international experts and scientists, in addition to meeting the manufacturer and its representatives to answer inquiries submitted by the authority," SPA said at the time.

Saudi Arabia plans to administer the vaccine over three stages, focusing on three groups.

The first stage prioritises citizens and residents over 65 years of age and professionals who are most vulnerable to infection. People who are obese or those who have an immunity deficiency will also be vaccinated first. Others who have two or more pre-existing conditions such as chronic kidney disease, chronic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and those who have suffered from a stroke will also be treated.

The next stage targets those over 50 and remaining health practitioners. People with asthma, diabetes and those with one chronic illness such as kidney disease, chronic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or active cancer.

The third stage will be for remaining residents who wish to be vaccinated.

Saudi Arabia has recorded 360,013 Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 6,059 deaths. The number of active cases in the kingdom is down to 3,162.

The UAE was the first country to issue government approval of the Sinopharm vaccine, on December 9, citing preliminary research showing it to be 86 per cent effective.

On Sunday Bahrain approved the Sinopharm vaccine afterits earlier approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Separately, Kuwait has granted emergency use for the same vaccine.