RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia began importing people into the country with the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, the first Arab country to issue a Pfizer-BioNTech injection.
Saudi Arabia received two vessels 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 of charge to everyone in the country.
The kingdom has reported approximately 360,000 cases of coronavirus cases with 6,080 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic. Although it began lifting restrictions several months ago, the country has so far avoided a new wave of diseases.
Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah was one of the first to receive the vaccine, rolling up his neck to get the inoculation in front of the media.
“Today marks the beginning of relief for this crisis,” Rabiah told reporters at a vaccination center with more than 550 inclusion stations in Riyadh.
“For the past nine months, I have been keeping a close eye on the number of cases recorded,” he said. “But today, I will be keeping a close eye on how many people are vaccinated.”
Vaccination stations will be set up across the country, he said.
Saudi Arabia earlier this week asked citizens and residents to sign up for their vaccination program. The first stage involves those most susceptible to the disease. The second and third stages target those over 50 before the vaccine is available to the general public.
Citizens and foreign residents came in to receive the vaccine Thursday morning, as part of a phase 1 outbreak that includes those most vulnerable and vulnerable to the disease.
Reporting with Reuters TV News and Dubai newsroom; writing by Raya Jalabi; edited by Alistair Bell, Larry King