DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia has kicked off its COVID-19 inoculation campaign, with the health minister receiving the first dose a week after authorities approved the Pfizer vaccine.
Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said the government is confident of the safety of the vaccine, and vowed that all citizens in the biggest Gulf Arab state, with a population of 34 million people, will receive injections free of charge.
Al-Rabiah hailed the start of the campaign as “the beginning of the relief of the pandemic crisis."
Authorities said they will give priority to health workers, citizens and residents over 65 years old and those with underlying health conditions in the first phase of the rollout. The government did not specify how many doses had been received, but said it plans to inoculate at least 70% of the population by the end of next year.
Although cases have declined in recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has struggled to contain a major outbreak that has killed over 6,000 people.