Saudi Arabia allows Pakistanis inoculated with Chinese vaccine to enter the Kingdom
by Shafqat Ali
ISLAMABAD, July 13 (Gwadar Pro) - Pakistan's request to include Chinese vaccines to its list of approved Covid-19 shots for visitors was approved by Saudi Arabia on Monday.
Saudi Arabia has permitted Pakistani nationals inoculated with Chinese jabs to enter the Kingdom, Saudi health authorities said. However, visitors will have to receive a booster shot of vaccines approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health on arrival in the Kingdom, they added. In addition, the travellers are also required to provide evidence of negative antigen tests on arrival.
The Saudi Arabian government has included Sinopharm and Sinovac in its list of recognised vaccines to gain entry into the country, confirmed an official list of the vaccines approved by the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia had previously only approved the AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Anyone arriving without one of those shots was required to quarantine at a cost many say they cannot afford.
But Pakistan has relied extensively on the Sinopharm, CanSino, and Sinovac vaccines that the government purchased from China. This became a problem for the tens of thousands of expatriates - who work in Saudi Arabia and contribute US $7 billion — when the Kingdom barred direct travel from Pakistan citing pandemic concerns.
The government only started using AstraZeneca to inoculate the people after receiving 1.2 million doses of the vaccine in May under the World Health Organisation's COVAX programme for equitable distribution of Covid-19 shots among developing nations.
Last month, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan himself was handling the matter of Saudi and some other countries in the Middle East not accepting the vaccination certificate of the Sinopharm vaccine.
The government has also made an agreement to procure 13 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer, Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan announced last month. An exact timeline was not yet available, Dr Faisal said. He added the doses would arrive by the end of 2021, under an agreement the government has made with the manufacturer.
The government has also approved spending US $1.1 billion on procuring vaccines, part of its goal to inoculate at least 70 million people.