Saudi Arabia OKs AstraZeneca Shot as It Aims to Ramp Up Program


(Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia approved use of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca Plc, boosting its inoculation drive as a government minister laid out plans for a significant acceleration.

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority has now approved shots developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, and AstraZeneca.

Deputy Minister for Public Health Hani Jokhdar said in an interview Thursday that the kingdom has the capacity to give 200,000 Covid-19 vaccinations a day and aims to secure enough supply to ramp up its inoculation program.

“We will be able to deliver 1.4 million doses every week,” he said. Jokhdar said the kingdom planned to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as “this weekend.”

It has administrated about 1.4 vaccine doses per 100 people — 460,000 shots for a population of about 34 million — a much slower rate than in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, which has approved a range of jabs, including one made in China.

The kingdom has reported more than 370,000 coronavirus cases and 6,000 deaths.

Jokhdar also said:

  • Vaccination won’t be made compulsory.
  • People won’t be be able to choose which shot they receive.
  • Kingdom aims to vaccinate 70% of its at-risk population by the third quarter, including the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

(Updates with the registration of AstraZeneca.)

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