Inoculation against meningitis, seasonal flu must for Haj pilgrims

ABU DHABI — Those going for performing Haj this year are being urged to take a jab against meningitis and the seasonal flu.

By Olivia Olarte

Published: Tue 13 Sep 2011, 10:37 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:54 AM

“Each year, millions of people travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform Haj. Because of the sheer number of pilgrims, and their close proximity to each other in crowded sites, diseases, particularly the bacteria which cause meningitis, can spread quickly between the pilgrims,” said Dr Farida Al Hosani, manager of communicable diseases at the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD).

Saudi Arabia requires Haj pilgrims to be vaccinated for Meningococcal which provide protection against meningitis, and the seasonal flu vaccine.

However, the elderly and other people with special medical conditions such as those with sickle cell anaemia, heart disease, kidney disease and liver disease are advised to have the Pneumococcal vaccine to protect them against pneumococcal disease. Speaking on Monday during the launch of the Haj vaccination programme for 2011, Dr Al Hosani stressed the importance of taking the vaccines ahead of time, at least two weeks prior to travelling as they provide maximum strength and immunity for the body.

“The vaccines are safe to be taken together,” she said. On the seasonal flu vaccine, she said new vaccines are developed every year on the most common strain of influenza. This year’s vaccine includes protection against H1N1 (swine flu), she confirmed.

Dr Abdel Hadi Al Ahbabi, COO of the Ambulatory Healthcare Services – SEHA, said the vaccines are free of charge for those living and working in the emirate. “The vaccination centres are available everywhere, up to the Oman border and Sila, the border with Saudi. All you have to do is call the centre and make an appointment,” he advised.

“It is important to protect people against communicable diseases, either there or here,” Dr Al Ahbabi added.

Rashid Al Mazrouei, Abu Dhabi branch manager of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (AWQAF), urged pilgrims not to take this requirement lightly. “Tell your peers so that they can have the vaccination certificate,” he urged them. All pilgrims must show proof of the vaccination on a valid certificate of vaccination (International Certificate of Vaccination or Authorised Vaccination Card) before entering Saudi Arabia to perform Haj. Brochures on the requirements for Haj and Umrah trips will be distributed at Haj travel agents, and airline and healthcare facilities.

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