Saudi Arabia approves COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 – Arab News

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MAKKAH: The Saudi Food and Drug Authority on Wednesday approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11.
Many countries have already approved the use of vaccines for children ages 12 and over. In some, attention is now turning to expanding vaccination eligibility to include younger children, following research into their safety and benefits. Some countries already offer vaccinations for this age group, and Saudi children are set to be next.
Last week the Saudi Ministry of Health sent a survey to parents asking for their views on the vaccination of younger children. The SFDA’s decision to approve the vaccine for younger children was based on data provided by the company demonstrating that it meets special regulatory requirements.
Epidemiologists in the Kingdom told Arab News that global studies had not detected any severe or unexpected complications resulting from vaccination in the 5-11 age group, suggesting that vaccines offer a safe and effective way for children to return to school and resume normal, everyday life, and to reduce the risk of them spreading the disease to their families.
Epidemiologists in the Kingdom told Arab News that global studies had not detected any severe or unexpected complications resulting from vaccination in the 5-11 age group, suggesting that vaccines offer a safe and effective way for children to return to school and resume normal, everyday life, and to reduce the risk of them spreading the disease to their families.
Two weeks ago, citing safety reasons, the Saudi Ministry of Education announced that children under the age of 12 would not be returning to in-person classes.
“We want to emphasize that millions around the world have been vaccinated,” said Dr. Nezar Bahabri, the head of the Saudi Society for Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Jeddah.
“Studies have shown that hundreds of thousands of kids between the ages of 5 and 11 have received the COVID-19 vaccine without showing any complications.
“They received the vaccine before getting permission from the international, accredited medical agencies where elite doctors, with broad experiences in dealing with epidemics and their symptoms and childhood vaccinations, work.”
He stressed that specialist doctors in Saudi Arabia examine all the scientific and experimental evidence before reaching their conclusions.
“Children … need to return to schools,” Bahabri said. “They tend to spontaneously mingle and play together. If one student gets infected with the virus, they can easily transfer it to the rest of a class and from there to entire families, including the elderly, and communities. This means we have to pay the utmost attention to this (younger) age group.”
He added that although the risk posed by COVID-19 to children and adolescents is relatively low, compared with other age groups, vaccination is still important to protect them from emerging variants and because it has been proven to reduce this risk of spreading the disease.
“We are all afraid if one of our children gets sick, even for a day, what if this sickness is due to a new variant of the virus that can cause significant damage?” Bahabri said. “Recent studies have shown the safety of the vaccination and its efficacy in alleviating infections in children of this age group.”
Dr. Wael Ali Bajhamoom, an infectious diseases consultant and head of the internal medicine department at King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, said the Kingdom has made great progress in the battle against the coronavirus thanks to the efforts of the government, in particular the Ministry of Health, with the support and commitment of the community.
“One of the most important things that made a significant change, and constituted the first step in ending a long pandemic, was the availability of an effective vaccine that would end the long struggle,” he told Arab News.
“Another step that has played an active and important role in reaching this stage is launching an inoculation campaign for kids aged over the age of 12,” he added, stressing that the results have
been impressive.
“Any vaccine or treatment that will be adopted in the Kingdom will go through various stages of research and scientific clinical studies before being approved.”
More than 46 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the Kingdom to date.
DUBAI: Health professionals have long trumpeted the benefits of regular exercise to promote physical well-being, longevity, and mental wellness, while also easing the burden of chronic conditions on the health sector.
Now, empowered by Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s economic reform agenda, young Saudis are readily taking advantage of opportunities and state support to launch their own business ventures in the burgeoning fitness industry.
Many of these young people bring entirely fresh approaches to the concept of wellness — with a greater emphasis on mental health, socializing, and creative pursuits, rather than the solitary and often hypermasculine experience of the traditional gym sector.
Sarah Al-Turkistani, who was born and raised in the town of Taif in the Kingdom’s southwestern Makkah province, saw a yawning gap in the market for female fitness enthusiasts eager to get in shape but put off by the limited gym facilities on offer.
A year since its launch in the coastal city of Jeddah, her business, Loca Studios, has offered women a completely different fitness experience, where the grind of a regular workout becomes a social activity, involving music, dance, multi-sensory therapies, and even the chance to drink coffee with new friends.
Al-Turkistani told Arab News: “Through exercise, people can actually heal their body from physical and emotional traumas.”
As a graduate of the health profession, having studied at the College of Clinical Pharmacy in Jeddah, she takes a whole-body approach to fitness, acknowledging not only the physical benefits of weight loss and muscle growth, but also the mental advantages of exercise.
What she also drew from her studies was an understanding of the limitations of pharmaceutical drugs in treating maladies. “It usually helps you in one area but damages your body in another,” she said.
Instead, she has become an ardent advocate of holistic lifestyle choices to improve and maintain overall health.
Following her studies, Al-Turkistani began a stint in pharmaceutical chemical procurement at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, but soon moved to Nahdi Pharmacy, where she established the firm’s marketing department. It was here she honed her business acumen and delved deeper into the realm of holistic health.
During her time with Nahdi Pharmacy she became involved in a joint project with the Saudi Ministry of Health and the Joslin Diabetes Center in the US to publish a study for the American Diabetes Association on the power of wellness and healthy eating in treating diabetic patients.
“My mission in life is helping people with solutions other than medication. I was really inspired by the results of the study, and this got me deeper into wellness,” Al-Turkistani added.
With World Diabetes Day (Nov. 14) approaching, health professionals globally are using the occasion to encourage the public to eat a more balanced diet and to take up some form of moderate daily exercise to shed excess pounds.
While working with Nahdi Pharmacy, Al-Turkistani became a certified diabetes educator, a period of study which drew her into the sports fitness sector. But the experience that really brought out her inner entrepreneur was her own fitness journey.
After failed attempts at joining a gym to lose weight following her pregnancy, Al-Turkistani signed up for a home Zumba class hosted by her friend and future business partner. “I immediately loved it,” she said.
“I really loved dancing and losing weight without even feeling it. I was having so much fun. My business mind wondered why there was no such thing (on a commercial scale) in Saudi Arabia because it actually changed my life. That’s when it clicked.”
And so, as the Kingdom began to relax its guardianship laws and started encouraging women and young people to enter the workplace and launch their own businesses, Al-Turkistani established Loca Studios in a four-storey, 3,000-square-meter building in the heart of Jeddah.
Although the space was much larger than she had anticipated, a brainstorming session with her silent partner hatched an even more ambitious plan, incorporating fitness, art, and music into a holistic community.
The venture is certainly experimental. It will soon host live jazz musicians to perform around the studio, while customers take part in art classes, workouts, and drink coffee.
“Music always makes for a fun workout. We had a couple of events where my sister played oud in the background of a yoga class, and another that activates people’s senses by coordinating a room’s colors to the music. You’re activating your visual senses thanks to the moving colors, so people don’t feel the struggle or pain of actually working out,” she added.
The multi-sensory experience is further enhanced by the fragrance in each room, utterly transforming the gym aesthetic and the appeal of working out. “It has an amazing effect on people,” Al-Turkistani said.
“People buy gym memberships, but they don’t go. It’s very good for business but not good for the guests. In our case, people actually pay for the membership, and the faces that I see, I see every day — they don’t quit.”
As Loca Studios celebrated its first anniversary, Al-Turkistani revealed she had plans to open a second branch in Riyadh before expanding throughout the Kingdom.
With 2,000 people currently subscribed on her website, and around 300 customers joining the studio in September alone, Al-Turkistani noted that she was proud of the progressive transformations taking place in Saudi Arabia.
By revolutionizing the gym experience and expanding her business, she hoped to make a difference in a small but important way: 36 percent of Saudi women are classified as obese, resulting in chronic health conditions that place a strain on the country’s medical infrastructure.
“Our government is finally looking at this seriously because having so many people sick in hospitals affects the economy.
“They thought about it from a human perspective, as well, and I’m really happy about it and the Vision 2030. It made me even stronger as a businesswoman knowing that whatever I’m going to do, I’m going to get the right support from the government and the whole country,” she added.
Many young Saudi entrepreneurs want to make an impact on their community — especially in ways that improve quality of life through physical and mental well-being — efforts that are at the very heart of the Kingdom’s transformation.
Al-Turkistani said: “We now find a lot of Saudi trainers in the fitness industry and many of them are self-taught. They’re getting certified, which is amazing, and there’s a lot taking place in society now.”
Latching onto the well-being trend, Al-Turkistani plans to open a Loca Academy to train others eager to enter the fitness industry.
“I am certified to deliver a training program used by the US Army on how to de-stress. There are only five Saudis trained in this so far, but I believe it’s going to change people’s lives.
“The happiness that comes from the outside world — the dancing, the fun, the workouts — all that is good, but people need to heal first. So, I’m really proud that this is going to be a new thing in Saudi Arabia,” she added.
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Twitter: @CalineMalek

JEDDAH: The growing popularity of e-commerce, online public services and social media in Saudi Arabia has brought many benefits that can improve the quality of day-to-day life.
However as the amount of personal information and data we share online increases, so does the risk of falling victim to cybercrime. Ignorance of the dangers, or complacency based on an assumption that online spaces are probably safe, can increase the chances of falling victim to scammers.
As a result of this, and the demand for greater online safeguards and services to protect users from the criminals who prey on the unwary, cybersecurity is an expanding field in the Kingdom. Saudi authorities have taken great strides in efforts to protect people online by launching training programs and events such as hackathons, and improving the rules and guidelines for the public and private sectors relating to social media accounts and the cloud, for example.
In March, Minister of Education Hamad Al-Sheikh signed a cooperation agreement with the governor of the National Cybersecurity Authority, Khalid Al-Sabti, to strengthen cooperation in the fields of education, scientific research, training and awareness, as part of the efforts to boost capacity building in the field of cybersecurity.
Previously, in 2018, the ministry and the NCA had signed a cooperation agreement under which the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Program for Foreign Scholarships allocated 200 scholarships a year for five years in the field of cybersecurity.
Walaa Anees, who is studying for a master’s degree in cybersecurity and digital forensics at George Mason University in Virginia, told Arab News that one of the main reasons why she decided to specialize in this field was because she had seen relatives suffer when their social media accounts were hacked and private pictures leaked. She also wants to blaze a trail for Saudization and increasingly empowered Saudi women in her country’s workforce.
Anees added that she is thankful to live in a country with a generous government that offered to sponsor her education and provide support while she studies abroad.
Walaa Anees, who is studying for a master’s degree in cybersecurity and digital forensics at George Mason University in Virginia, told Arab News that one of the main reasons why she decided to specialize in this field was because she had seen relatives suffer when their social media accounts were hacked and private pictures leaked.
“I am certainly looking forward to coming back home to both employ the knowledge that I have gained and pass it along to the community,” she said. “I am truly excited to give back in return for what my country offered.”
Young people do not need to travel abroad to further their knowledge and skills, however. The Tuwaiq Academy, for example, which was established in 2020, offers bootcamps in the Kingdom that teach 1,000 young men and women programming and cybersecurity skills, of international standards over the course of four to five months to prepare them for the developing requirements of the Saudi labor market. It is said to be the largest national initiative of its kind.
The Kingdom’s cybersecurity education efforts are not limited to adults but also include options for children. CyberKids, the Cybersecurity for Children Association, for example, aims to protect children from the predators that might target them while they surf the internet or play online games. The association said that the courses it provides have benefited more than 16,000 children.
Efforts by the authorities and other organizations to create a safer online environment can only go so far, however, and part of the responsibility ultimately lies with individuals to be aware of the dangers and the steps they can take to reduce the risks.
One of the best ways to protect personal information and data is to use strong, unique passwords for every account, and regularly change them. It is also important to be able to spot suspicious messages and emails, and never to click on any links they contain.
Mohammed Al-Sultan is an ethical hacker who helps the victims of cybercrimes on a pro bono basis, and is part of a team that works to make cyberspace safer. Ethical hackers are skilled technicians who search for vulnerabilities in systems so that they can be fixed.
He explained that cybersecurity means information security, and so the goal is to protect information from theft and corruption.
“There are two types of hackers: the good and the bad,” Al-Sultan said. “The ethical ones are called ‘white-hat’ hackers and their job is to hack with the purpose of finding an opening in a website, with the aim of searching for loopholes and vulnerabilities in networks and systems, fighting cybercrime and countering cyberattacks.
“As for the bad hackers, also known as ‘black-hat’ hackers, they are the ones who commit cybercrimes such as information theft, network penetration and privacy infringement.”
He added that ethical hacking is legal, as the aim is to help improve security by highlighting vulnerabilities. He knows his job based on the internationally accredited training courses he took from CEH, certified ethical hacker, and governmental, educational centers such as Doroob platform and STC.
Criminal hackers and fraudsters often use so-called social engineering techniques to deceive and manipulate their victims into revealing confidential or personal information. Perhaps the best-known and most common form of social engineering scam is phishing, in which criminals send out emails that appear to be from reputable sources in an attempt to trick recipients.
For example, an email or message might claim that recipients have won a prize and need to enter their bank account details at a link that is provided. This information can give the fraudsters access to the bank account and allow them to clean it out.
Another trick hackers use, Al-Sultan said, is telling you they need you to send them your unique WhatsApp code so that they can add you to a group.
“The hacker can create an account on Instagram similar to that of someone you know and they will direct message you telling you they will add you to a WhatsApp group and you need to send them a certain code,” he explained. “But once you give them that code they will immediately hack into your WhatsApp and will start texting people you know to send their credit card information.”
Most of the people who come to Al-Sultan for help have fallen victim to blackmail, he said. This is an area that also concerns the Saudi government, which has launched an anti-extortion website to help victims and catch the perpetrators.
Arab News spoke to some blackmail victims about their experiences. Their names have been withheld to protect their identities.
L. L. said a former boyfriend attempted to blackmail her by threatening to post private videos on social media.
“My ex did not like that I broke up with him,” she said. “He started blackmailing me and threatening that he would expose private videos of mine online. “I went to the police station and filed a complaint and luckily the police transferred the case to the criminal investigations department, and they tracked him down. Thank God, he was caught.”
JEDDAH: Professional sculptors from around the world will come together at the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium to produce a series of permanent public sculptures.
After 400 sculptors from 71 different countries answered Riyadh Art’s call for submissions, an international panel has chosen the final 20 participating artists.
The countries represented include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Italy, Germany, the UK, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, Bulgaria, Colombia, New Zealand, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Georgia.
The artists will create sculptures using black and white pearl marble, exploring the connections between matter and emptiness, light and shadow, under this year’s theme “The Poetics of Space.”
Khaled Al-Hazzani, Riyadh Art’s director, said: “Participating artists will produce beautiful sculptures that manifest poetry in motion and create their own space while being in harmony with their surroundings.”
This will be done in a live setting that will open up the creative process to the public in JAX District, against the historical backdrop of Diriyah, the birthplace of Saudi Arabia.
After 400 sculptors from 71 different countries answered Riyadh Art’s call for submissions, an international panel has chosen the final 20 participating artists. The countries represented include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Italy, Germany, the UK, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, Bulgaria, Colombia, New Zealand, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Georgia.
The event will also include a program of 12 public talks, guided tours and educational trips for more than 400 students, explaining the process of making an artistic sculpture and giving them access to material, tools, and techniques to enrich their experience and that of the community. 
The event starts on Nov. 15, and the completed sculptures will be exhibited in December for four consecutive days before being moved to various outdoor locations across Riyadh.
This initiative is to transform the city into a gallery without walls in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan.
“The aim is to enrich the city by bringing art to neighborhoods, parks and public squares in order to expand the understanding and appreciation of international art, to educate and effect change, as well as to create a platform for intercultural dialogue,” said the program.
This is the second public art program under Riyadh Art, following the success of Noor Riyadh festival of light and art earlier this year, which attracted more than 300,000 visitors.
As a fundamental principle underpinned by its social development program for raising local community awareness, the symposium is providing accessibility to Riyadh’s art world through partnerships with cultural institutions that organize workshops. These include Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Misk Art Institute and the Royal Institute of Traditional Arts.
RIYADH: Saudi digital therapeutics startup Liven is keen to provide a path for the local populace to meet the ambitious plan of “Quality of Life” under Saudi Vision 2030 and aims to significantly improve the quality of diabetes management.
Speaking to Arab News ahead of World Diabetes Day, Abeer Al-Olyan, co-founder and CEO of Liven, which aims to empower people with the knowledge and support to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle utilizing technology and evidence-based care targeting diabetes, said: “Liven is the first digital therapeutic startup in the region, a future mobile app to be prescribed by the doctor to manage Type 2 diabetes.

“It is currently undergoing a feasibility study, partnering with the Lifestyle and Health Research Center at the Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, which will be followed by an experimental randomized clinical trial in order to prove the effectiveness of the application in managing Type 2 Diabetes.”
World Diabetes Day is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over one billion people in more than 160 countries.
World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations day in 2006 with the passage of UN Resolution 61/225, and it is marked every year on Nov. 14, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin along with Charles Best in 1922.
Every year, the World Diabetes Day campaign focuses on a dedicated theme that runs for one or more years. The theme for World Diabetes Day 2021-23 is “Access to Diabetes Care – If Not Now, When?”

“As the Ministry of Health aims to enable the brightest national minds to create digital solutions through emerging technologies in an innovative ecosystem to enhance the quality of healthcare services in the Kingdom, Liven aims to significantly improve the quality of diabetes management by ensuring the personalization of the healthcare service being provided for each patient; it does that by individualizing the intervention based on the patient’s data and behavior, including their specific blood glucose pattern and their lifestyle,” said Al-Olyan.
She said that with the privilege of the internet and virtual meeting platforms, the Liven team, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, has managed to continue making progress, join accelerator programs and connect with consultants and experts in the field throughout the pandemic and the subsequent quarantine period. The pandemic and quarantine periods have further proved the necessity of digitizing healthcare delivery and the importance of Liven, she said adding that during the pandemic, Liven announced free access to the platform and connected dietitians with diabetic patients to provide an online, no contact consultation for this high-risk group.

RIYADH: The Saudi Heritage Commission launched a mud construction training program in Unaizah governorate in Qassim region to transfer knowledge about mud construction techniques to new generations. The training program, funded by the Abdullah Al-Zamil Charity Foundation, aims to create a group of urban heritage craftsmen to preserve traditional architecture as a national heritage. 
The training program will be held in the Al-Hamdan heritage village and will include 15 trainees to learn about traditional mud construction methods and techniques. The training curriculum will be divided into two phases.
The first phase is about the preparation and selection of clay and the preparation of other materials used, such as stones, wood, plaster, palm branches, and leaves. In the second phase, trainees will learn how to execute construction.

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