As millions of pilgrims from all over the world converge, many of which are from low-income countries with minimal access to healthcare, the risk of infectious disease increases dramatically. The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) have therefore stipulated that mandatory vaccinations have to be carried out prior to Hajj and Umrah visas being issued. Vaccination requirements vary depending on the country you are travelling from.
Meningococcal meningitis is a serious infection that can affect the brain membrane, causing severe brain damage and can be fatal if left untreated. Outbreaks of meningitis have been recorded during Hajj in 1987, 2000 and 2001.
Anyone intending to perform Hajj or Umrah from any part of the world is required to produce a valid certificate of vaccination against quadrivalent (A/C/Y/W135) meningococcal meningitis infection.
There are two types of meningococcal meningitis vaccines – polysaccharide and conjugate.
- Polysaccharide vaccine – administered in the last 3 years and no less than 10 days prior to arrival in Saudi Arabia.
- Conjugate vaccine – administered in the last 8 years and no less than 10 days prior to arrival in Saudi Arabia.
- Both are acceptable for the issuance of the visa although the conjugate vaccine is recommended.
- Applies to all adults and children above the age of 2.
Additionally, pilgrims arriving from countries within the African Meningitis Belt (Benin; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chad; Central African Republic; Cote d’Ivoire; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gambia; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal, Sudan and South Sudan) will also be given antibiotics (Ciprofloxacin) at the port of entry as additional precautionary measure.
Proof of vaccination must be submitted with the visa application no less than 10 days prior to your arrival in Saudi Arabia.
Yellow fever is a serious viral infection spread by certain types of mosquito. It’s predominantly found in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and certain parts of the Caribbean.
As of 2016, the following countries / areas are at risk of yellow fever transmission:
Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, The Republic of South Soudan, Togo and Uganda.
Argentina, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Plurinational State of Bolivia, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
All pilgrims from these countries will require a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate administered in the last 10 years and no less than 10 days prior to arrival in Saudi Arabia.
Those arriving in Saudi Arabia without a valid yellow fever certificate will be vaccinated and put under surveillance for 6 days.
Polio is an infectious viral illness that can potentially cause temporary or permanent paralysis. It was an illness that was common in the UK and other parts of the world, although cases have now dramatically decreased after vaccinations for polio were introduced. Proof of receipt of a dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV), or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) is required by pilgrims arriving from:
- Countries where polio is categorised as endemic (currently Afghanistan and Pakistan).
- Countries with re-established transmission and imported polio cases within the past 12 months (Guinea, Laos People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Ukraine).
- Countries which remain vulnerable to polio (Iraq, Somalia, Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen).
Vaccines must be administered within the previous 12 months and at least 4 weeks prior to departure, regardless of age and vaccination status. Pilgrims from these countries will also receive a further single dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) upon arrival in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that all pilgrims are vaccinated against seasonal influenza, especially those at increased risk e.g. pregnant women, children over 5 years, the elderly, those with chronic respiratory or heart diseases, diabetes or immunosuppression.
There are a number of other vaccines that you may consider including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, tetanus and typhoid. You should discuss your options with your doctor who may recommend vaccinations based on your general health. This may sound quite excessive but it can potentially save you from a lot of problems in the long run.
|Meningococcal Meningitis||Required for all pilgrims from all countries.||At least 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia.||3 or 8 year immunity.|
|Yellow Fever||Required for pilgrims from certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and the Caribbean.||At least 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia.||Up to 10 year immunity.|
|Poliomyelitis (Polio)||Required for pilgrims from countries affected by polio.||At least 4 weeks before departure.||Another dose is given to the pilgrim on arrival in Saudi Arabia.|
|Seasonal Influenza||Recommended for pilgrims at increased risk.||6 weeks before arrival.|
Please note that vaccinations can have side effects and for this reason, it is advisable to have them well before departure. This will provide sufficient time for immunity to develop as well as allowing the site of the injection to settle.