Saudi health minister among first to receive coronavirus vaccination

Authorities begin to administer free inoculations to Saudis and residents

Saudi Arabia's health minister received one of the kingdom's first coronavirus inoculations on Thursday.

Tawfiq Al Rabiah was given the injection at a Riyadh hospital a day after the kingdom took delivery of its first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Saudi health authorities approved the vaccine from the US-German partnership last Thursday. The vaccine, which was 95 per cent effective in late-stage clinical trials, is administered in two doses, 21 days apart.

"Over the last nine months, I anxiously watched the number of registered cases. But today, I’ll be happily watching the number of those who are vaccinated," Dr Al Rabiah said.

Vaccination stations will be set up throughout the kingdom, he said.

He said 150,000 people had registered to receive the vaccine in the 24 hours after he urged Saudis and residents to sign up for it on the Health Ministry app.

Shortly after the minister took the vaccine in front of news crews, the introduction to Saudi citizens began. Authorities say the programme will be completed in stages, free of charge.

Phase one will target those most at risk of exposure to the disease and the over 65s, with phase two taking in residents over 50 and those with underlying conditions. The vaccine will then be made available to the general public.

Saudi Arabia has been hit hard by the virus, with a current total of 360,335 cases and 6,080 deaths.

The first Saudi woman to be inoculated against the virus was overjoyed and proud, telling local news services: "May God bless our government and lead them to victory against their enemies, may our nation live in harmony and prosperity."

Umm Sultan cried tears "of happiness" after receiving the injection.