RIYADH Saudi Arabia began vaccinating people in the kingdom with a Covid-19 vaccine on Thursday, becoming the first Arab country to launch the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.
Saudi Arabia received two shipments of the vaccine on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, health authorities asked citizens and residents to register to receive the vaccine, which they said would be given free to everyone in the country.
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The kingdom has reported around 360,000 coronavirus cases with 6,080 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Although it began lifting restrictions several months ago, the country has so far avoided a new wave of infections.
Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah was one of the first people to receive the vaccine, rolling up his sleeve to receive the injection in front of the media.
“Today marks the beginning of relief from this crisis,” Rabiah told reporters at a vaccination center with more than 550 injection stations in Riyadh.
“For the past nine months, I have been looking forward to the number of registered cases,” he said. “But today, I will happily monitor the number of those who are vaccinated.”
Vaccination stations will be installed throughout the kingdom, he said.
Saudi Arabia earlier this week asked citizens and residents to sign up for its vaccination program. The first phase will include the people most exposed to the disease. The second and third phases will affect those over 50 before the vaccine is made available to the wider public.
Citizens and foreign residents lined up to receive the vaccine on Thursday morning, as part of Phase 1 roll-out that includes those most exposed and vulnerable to the disease.