Saudi Arabia Banning International Travel for Non-Vaccinated Citizens on August 9

This picture taken on December 17, 2020 shows the first Saudi citizen preparing to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine (Tozinameran) in the capital Riyadh, as part of a vaccination campaign by the Saudi health ministry. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

All Saudi Arabian citizens traveling outside the Kingdom from August 9 must receive two Chinese coronavirus vaccine doses before departing, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry announced Monday.

“The new requirement will not be applied to children under the age of 12 provided that their travel insurance policy covers expenses relating to COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] and is pre-approved by the central bank of Saudi Arabia,” Al Arabiya reported July 19.

“People who were infected by the virus in the last six months and those who were infected with COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] but received the first dose of the vaccine are also exempt,” according to the Arab news outlet.

Saudi Arabia’s government already required Saudi citizens to be inoculated against the Chinese coronavirus prior to international travel starting May 17. The guidelines at the time allowed people who had received just one dose of a coronavirus vaccine to travel abroad. A single dose of a coronavirus shot will no longer be sufficient starting August 9 for most people.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior said its latest decision to require two doses of a coronavirus vaccine before international travel “comes in light of the spread of new variants of the virus, the low effectiveness of a single dose of the vaccine against those new variants and based on studies and scientific research, which show that receiving two doses will protect against complications of the virus variants.” The ministry in its July 19 press release did not provide or cite any scientific evidence to support its claims that “receiving two doses” of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine “will protect against complications of the virus variants.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned July 16 that the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is “significantly less” effective against the “Delta” variant of the Chinese coronavirus, at least according to data recorded in Israel. The Delta strain of the Chinese coronavirus was first detected in India.

Pfizer is a U.S.-based multinational pharmaceutical company. Its coronavirus vaccine consists of two doses and is based on mRNA technology. Saudi Arabia began administering Pfizer coronavirus vaccines to its citizens in December 2020. The Kingdom approved the use of Moderna’s mRNA coronavirus vaccine July 9. Moderna, like Pfizer, is a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company.

Saudi Arabia has also approved the use of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine developed jointly by AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, and Oxford University. AstraZeneca‘s coronavirus vaccine “is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to contain genetic material shared by the coronavirus — although it can’t cause the illness,” according to the BBC. “Once injected, it teaches the body’s immune system how to fight the real virus.”

Saudi Arabia has likewise approved a single-dose Chinese coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, a U.S.-based multinational corporation. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is, like that of AstraZeneca, an adenovirus-based vaccine.

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