Hajj and Umrah vaccinations

What is Hajj and Umrah vaccinations?

During the Hajj and Umrah, Saudi Arabia receives many visitors from all over the world. Therefore, there is an increased chance of catching illness when traveling there during that time. If you are making a pilgrimage for Hajj or Umrah, it is important that you vaccinate yourself against certain risks.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) mandates the following vaccination:

  • Meningococcal quadruple vaccine (meningitis A, C, W, Y)

Before you can travel for Hajj or Umrah, you will need to submit a certificate for this vaccine. The certificate must be issued no less than 10 days prior to travel and no more than 3 years ago.

It is also highly recommended that you also get the following vaccinations:

  • Seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine
  • Pneumococcal vaccine

What do the vaccines do?

Meningococcal quadruple vaccine (meningitis ACWY)

The meningococcal quadruple vaccination protects against four types of meningococcal disease (meningitis A, C, W, and Y). Meningitis is a serious bacterial infection causing inflammation of the meninges; the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Seasonal influenza vaccine

This vaccination highly reduces the risks of catching influenza (flu). Flu is a viral infection that affects your respiratory system (your nose, throat, and lungs).

Pneumococcal vaccine

Pneumococcal infection is a serious infection that can affect the lungs, brain, and blood. When it affects the lungs, the infection can cause pneumonia, in the brain it can cause meningitis and in the blood, it can cause bacteremia. The pneumococcal vaccine helps to protect against the infection and prevent these conditions.

Who should get the vaccines and when?

Meningococcal quadruple vaccine (meningitis A, C, W, Y)

For the purposes of making the pilgrimage for Hajj or Umrah, all travelers must have the vaccination. The Saudi Arabian authorities recommend that it is ideally given at least two weeks prior to travel in order to allow time for effectiveness.

Note that you will need to submit a certificate for this vaccine which must be issued no less than 10 days prior to travel and no more than 3 years ago.

Seasonal influenza

When traveling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah, it is recommended that you get the seasonal influenza vaccination. In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone above the age of 6 months gets an annual vaccination against flu.

If you fall into the category of people who are at high risk of developing flu-related complications, it is especially important that you get the vaccination. You are considered high risk if you:

  • Are above age 65 or under 5
  • Are pregnant
  • Live or work with many other people (i.e. military barracks or nursing homes)
  • Have a weakened immune system (i.e. if you have HIV or cancer)
  • Have a chronic condition (such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma)
  • Are considered obese (with a Body Mass Index of over 40)

 

Pneumococcal vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine is available to adults and children above age 2. The Saudi Arabia authorities recommend that pilgrims aged 65 and over get this vaccination prior to travel and also younger adults who have:

 

  • Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease (including asthma), liver and kidney disease
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • A damaged spleen or no spleen
  • Other diseases or weakened immune systems that may put them at higher risk

Who should not have the vaccines?

You should not have any of the recommended vaccinations if you have had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past or have a severe allergy to any vaccine component.

Infants below the age of 6 months should not have an influenza vaccination.

Are there any risks or side effects?

Most side effects associated with all of these vaccines are mild. Common symptoms may include soreness, swelling or redness at the vaccination site. There may also be some additional symptoms associated with each vaccination as shown below.

 

Meningitis quadruple vaccination

 

This vaccination may also cause:

 

  • Fever
  • Muscle or joint aches or pain
  • Dizziness or feeling faint

 

More serious side effects are possible but rare.

 

Influenza vaccination

 

This vaccination may also cause:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches
  • Dizziness or feeling faint

Some studies have found a possible association with a rare condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) but this is fewer than 1 or 2 people in one million people vaccinated.

Pneumococcal vaccine

 

This vaccination may also cause:

  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiffness of the arm or the leg where the vaccine was injected,
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rash

 

 

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