RIYADH: It is mandatory for foreign pilgrims coming on Haj and Umrah this year to be vaccinated for communicable diseases such as yellow fever, cerebrospinal meningitis fever, polio and influenza, according to Dr. Khalid Al-Marghalani, the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) spokesperson.
Al-Marghalani said the MoH is following instructions from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the latest developments on epidemics, particularly from African, Asian and South American countries.
“It is mandatory for foreign pilgrims to be inoculated against communicable diseases common in their countries before coming to Saudi Arabia for Haj and Umrah,” he said.
He said the elderly, pregnant women or those with chronic diseases susceptible to avian influenza should be inoculated. They are required to produce vaccination certificates against the A-H1N1 virus, said Al-Marghalani.
Al-Marghalani said pilgrims should produce vaccination certificates when applying for pilgrim visas from Saudi embassies or missions in their respective countries. The certificate should state that they have been inoculated at least 10 days before their scheduled departure to Saudi Arabia.
He said the MoH, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has already circulated instructions to Saudi embassies and missions and other foreign embassies in various countries to ensure that Haj and Umrah pilgrims are properly inoculated.
For meningococcal meningitis, the Saudi authorities had previously recommended that adult pilgrims coming either for Haj or for Umrah, use the tetravalent ACYW135 polysaccharide vaccine to provide coverage against serogroup W135; and that accompanying children be at least two years of age.
Marghalani told Saudi Gazette in a phone interview on Tuesday that Haj and Umrah pilgrims coming from countries affected by yellow fever are requested to submit a valid vaccination certificate in accordance with WHO regulations.
The certificate must state that the holder is vaccinated against yellow fever or any other communicable disease prevalent in the country of origin 10 days before arrival in the Kingdom.
“The vaccination is required for pilgrims coming to Saudi Arabia by air, land and sea,” he said.
Marghalani said health personnel accompanying foreign Haj delegations, or those assigned to work at Haj sites, are also required to have valid vaccination certificates against meningococcal meningitis at least 10 days before they arrive in the Kingdom.
He added that aircraft, ships and other means of transportation coming from countries affected by yellow fever are requested to submit a valid certificate certifying the extermination of insects on-board according to international health regulations.
He said the African and other countries listed by WHO with yellow fever are Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Niger, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Gambia, Senegal, Central African Republic, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Brazil, Bolivia, Suriname, Peru, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay.
The health authorities at Saudi ports will administer preventive doses to pilgrims upon their arrival in the Kingdom. This will be done to further reduce the possibility of spreading communicable diseases during the pilgrimage season, he said.
“MoH is working closely with WHO to make the Haj free from all communicable diseases.
We also advise pilgrims coming on an Umrah visa to abide by the health requirements,” he said.
As for poliomyelitis, he said that the countries affected with this disease are Uganda, Kenya, Benin, Angola, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia and Nepal.
Pilgrims arriving from these countries are requested to vaccinate their accompanying children under the age of 15 with the oral polio vaccine six weeks before their arrival date. They will be administered with another dose upon their arrival in the Kingdom, he said.
He said people who suffer from chronic diseases such as cardiac, kidney, respiratory and neural diseases, and diabetes, immunodeficiency, HIV, and metabolic diseases, as well as pregnant women and obese people, should be vaccinated with seasonal flu vaccine.
— Saudi Gazette