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Covid-19: Saudi Arabia banned Yemeni residents from accessing vaccines, says report

The Saudi policy of barring Yemeni residents access to vaccinations has put their lives at risk of contracting the virus, says NGO
A medical worker administers a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the first drive-through vaccination centre in the Saudi capital Riyadh, 4 March 2021 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has prevented thousands of its Yemeni residents from receiving Covid-19 vaccinations, according to a rights group, putting their lives at risk of contracting the virus.

SAM Organisation for Rights and Liberties, a Geneva-based NGO monitoring human rights in the Middle East, said in a statement that denying Yemeni residents' access to vaccinations is “considered a flagrant legal violation of international rules”.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia lifted a travel ban that it imposed in February to 20 destinations, including the UAE, UK, France, US and Turkey, to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

'I felt a weird pain while I was watching the signs of astonishment and psychological shock on my daughters' faces'

- Yemeni resident of Jizan

Only Saudi expatriate residents could now travel from these destinations on the condition that they had received two doses of the vaccine.

SAM said that it received complaints from some Yemeni residents in Saudi Arabia claiming that they were banned from receiving a second dose of the vaccinations.

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One of the Yemen residents told SAM that his daughters were turned away from a clinical centre after they went to receive their second jab. He said his daughters’ study at the school will be disrupted as they could not attend classes in person due to not being inoculated.

“I felt a weird pain while I was watching the signs of astonishment and psychological shock on my daughters' faces,” he said.

He added that the guards at the clinical centre at Jazan University, in the southwest of the country, told him that "Yemenis are banned even from taking the vaccine on instructions from higher authorities.”

The rights group called on Saudi authorities to cease “racist practices” against Yemeni residents and allow them to be vaccinated. There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Saudi Arabia has recorded 8,505 deaths and almost 540,00 positive cases.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has approved six different vaccines for use, including Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson, and on Wednesday it approved the rollout of the Chinese-developed Sinovac and Sinopharm.

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