Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry on Monday announced that it would make the coronavirus vaccine available for free to all citizens and residents.
“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri, the assistant undersecretary at the ministry.
He, however, added that those below 16 years of age will not be vaccinated unless research proves otherwise.
As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.
“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organisation, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing…Saudi Arabia will obtain a large number of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is directly contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Arab News mentioned Asiri as saying.
According to the World Health Organization, “the COVAX facility forms a key part of the COVAX pillar (COVAX) of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.”
The Saudi Health Ministry further expected that by the end of next year, the vaccines would cover 70 per cent of the Kingdom’s population.
“One of the most important goals set by the G20 during Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency is to support all-inclusive and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostic and treatment tools,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri.
Dr Asiri added that a comprehensive plan for vaccine distribution will be ready “in the coming weeks”.
During the two-day G20 summit hosted virtually in Riyadh, Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, on Friday said that his country would be among the first ones to get hold of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr Al Rabeeah added that Saudi Arabia has spent over USD 200 million on COVID-19 vaccine and drug development.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz had in March also ordered free coronavirus treatment for all citizens.
Meanwhile, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday announced: “There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic.”
His remarks came after drugmaker AstraZeneca announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90 per cent effective. With this, AstraZeneca has become the third major drug company after Pfizer and Moderna to have reported late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
“The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated. No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development,” added Tedros.