Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has announced that vaccination against meningitis is mandatory for all Haj pilgrims in 2017 and it said a flu shot was also recommended, besides the usual quarantine requirements based on the country of origin.
“Meningitis vaccination should be taken at least 10 days before pilgrims arrive into the holy cities,” Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mirghalani told Arab News and added that it is valid for a period of three years.
Meningitis, a serious condition affecting the neck may spread during Haj because of pilgrims coming from endemic countries and the vaccination is fiven to adults and children aged two and above but not pregnant women.
The ministry’s national scientific committee will act as the command center for the pilgrims to monitor their vaccinations and health condition during the pilgrimage. Apart from meningitis, other diseases, such as Ebola, coronavirus, yellow fever, polio and vaccination against seasonal influenza virus would be implemented strictly this year, he said.
Yellow fever-endemic countries are identified as Angola, Benin, Sudan, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic (CAR), Cameroon, Burundi, Chad, Uganda, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Kenya, Liberia, Sao Tomé and Principe, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mali, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Brazil, Bolivia, Suriname, Peru, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay. Visa application for Haj will have to be accompanied by a vaccination form against fever in these countries.
An oral dose of polio is also compulsory for pilgrims coming from Uganda, Kenya, Benin, Angola, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, CAR, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia for all ages.
In addition, the flu vaccine is strongly advised though it is not made mandatory. Those with chronic ailments, such as diabetes, hypertension and renal diseases, have been advised to take the flu vaccine, which will help them to perform Haj and Umrah rituals more efficiently. The minister also advised pilgrims to pack food items in tightly sealed containers.