Saudi Health Minister Dr Tawfiq Al Rabiah receives the vaccine. Image Credit: Health Ministry

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia is considering compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for all citizens and residents to achieve community immunity, a senior official said.

“A decision whether to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory or not is surrounded by other aspects related to medical ethics and legal aspects, and it has to do with studies and research that have impact and value, and at the same time we rely a lot on the awareness of society in all its spectrums, with the high demand for vaccines, and desire to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” health ministry spokesperson, Mohammed Al Abd Al Aali, said.

Al Abd Al Aali, who spoke Tuesday in a virtual lecture entitled ‘Saudi Arabia’s Achievements During the Coronavirus Pandemic’ organised by Al Ahsa Education Department, indicated that the total number of virtual medicine specialties has increased from just onebefore the pandemic to 51 today, describing it as exceptional and unprecedented.

He added that, since the beginning of the pandemic, the Kingdom has adopted about 140 high-impact precautionary measures and protocols to protect society, and high-strength, daring and rapid steps, and has not relied on others, but rather has relied on existing experiences in the homeland, which are prominent experiences at the international level in the fields of health, science and research. There are organizations and bodies in various countries of the world, stressing that the Kingdom did not wait for other parties to dictate or give advice in this regard.

Al Abd Al Aali said that the number of laboratories increased from one in March 2019 to 89 laboratories covering the entire Kingdom at present, and that the PCR tests at the beginning of the pandemic were less than 100 per day with an average of 56 hours to extract the result, compared to 70,754 per day now with results taking no more than 14 hours to extract, one of the fastest in the world, and the fastest in the G20 group.

“Saudi Arabia has made more than 15 million PCR tests so far, and more than 4,000 intensive care beds have been added to the health sectors’ services around the Kingdom, an increase of more than 50 per cent over the capacity of the intensive care beds in the Kingdom’s hospitals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Public Transport Authority has said the COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory for all workers in public transport services as of May 13.

Those who do not comply with the new rule are required to submit a negative PCR test every seven days at the expense of the institution they are working for.

The authority instructed all operators of public transport to start vaccinating their employees before the date of mandatory enforcement of the new rule.

More than three million people have taken the vaccine shot so far in Saudi Arabia, making up about 70 per cent of citizens and residents who registered through the Sehhaty app to receive the dose.

The health ministry has decided to expand the scope of vaccination to all citizens and residents aged 16 and above, as part of its ongoing efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.