Due to the geographical location of the Hajj and Umrah and the large number of people present, the pilgrimage presents some unique health risks to travellers. There are a number of mandatory health requirements that must be met by visitors to obtain an entry visa for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage.
What vaccine do you need for Hajj?
All pilgrim travellers are required to submit a valid Meningitis ACWY vaccination certificate in order to obtain a visa. Adults and children over the age of 2 years old are required to have the vaccine and provide evidence of immunisation no less than 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia. A conjugate vaccination (such as Nimenrix or Menveo ) should have been given within 8 years prior to travel, and a vaccination booklet with evidence of immunisation is required.
It is highly recommended that all pilgrims get vaccinated against seasonal influenza to prevent the spread of the flu. Both Hajj and Umrah pose an increased risk due to crowded conditions and close contact with individuals. Influenza vaccination is advised, particularly for those at increased risk of severe influenza diseases, including pregnant women, children under 5 years, the elderly, and individuals with underlying health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, asthma, and chronic heart or lung diseases.
All travellers should ensure they are up-to-date with their routine immunisations. Recently there has been a worldwide rise in cases of measles and rubella. Therefore, you should make sure you’re immune to these before you go.
Ensure you have received at least 2 vaccinations against measles (usually given as the MMR combination).
It is recommended that all pilgrim travellers to Saudi Arabia have the Hepatitis A vaccine. This is a risk of contracting Hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in Saudi Arabia, regardless of where you are eating or staying.
Hepatitis B is spread through contaminated blood and bodily fluids. Pilgrims who intend to have their head shaved as one of the rites of Hajj should consider taking the vaccination. Although licensed barbers performing head shaving are obliged to use a new blade for each pilgrim, unlicensed barbers may not adhere to this practice. The vaccinations require 3 injections to be given over a 3-week period and can be given from birth.
Rabies is spread through the bite of an infected animal, such as dogs, cats, monkeys and bats. Saudi Arabia is classified as a high-risk country for rabies. A series of 3 vaccinations can be given over a 3-week period and can be given from birth.
There are a few other vaccine requirements depending on where you’re coming from:
Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate will be required for all travellers who are entering Saudi Arabia from a country that has a risk of Yellow Fever or are transiting through a country for more than 12 hours that has a risk of Yellow Fever.
A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is valid for life starting 10 days after vaccination and is necessary before arrival at the border.
Here’s a link to the list of countries/ areas at risk of yellow fever transmission, as per the WHO guidelines.
As there is no risk of Yellow Fever in Saudi Arabia, the vaccination is not recommended for those flying direct from a ‘no risk’ country.
Travellers should ensure they have been vaccinated against polio, which is a routine travel immunisation combined with diphtheria and tetanus to provide protection for 10 years. However, if travelling from one of the countries listed below, the vaccination should have been given within 12 months prior to travel, and a certificate needs to be provided as proof of immunisation.
Other health risks include:
MERS CoV is spread by a virus that causes anything from a common cold to severe pneumonia and death. It is highly infectious and spreads easily, although how it spreads from person-to-person is not fully understood.
There is no specific vaccination against MERS CoV nor specialist treatment available. The best protection is preventative measures which include:
Throughout the country, there is a risk of illness spread by flies and mosquitoes. Diseases include Chikungunya, dengue fever, leishmaniasis and Rift Valley fever. There are no vaccinations to protect against such illnesses and therefore protection against insect bites is essential to prevent infection. There is a very low risk of malaria in the cities of Jeddah and Mecca and anti-malarial medication is not routinely recommended for the Hajj pilgrimage. However, there is a risk out of these cities in the surrounding south-west of the country, and if travel to these regions is anticipated, malaria prophylaxis will be required.
Travellers’ diarrhoea can occur in up to 60% of travellers. Eating and drinking contaminated food and water are the usual culprits. Although most cases are mild, taking sensible precautions with food and water can reduce the risk. Carrying medicines for self-treatment is useful such as a Gastro Kit (available online, RRP £42) which contains medicines including antibiotics.
Saudi Arabia has had some of the hottest temperatures on record this year. Exposure to such high temperatures increases sweating, and results in loss of fluid and electrolytes causing rapid dehydration. This can result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke which can be life threatening if not dealt with promptly.
Heat-related illness can be avoided by the following:
At the end of Hajj, Muslim men shave their heads, and non-sterile blades can transmit blood-borne infections, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Only licensed barbers at officially designated centres should be visited. A disposable single-use blade or your personal razor should be used.
For more advice about how we can support you on your pilgrimage, health advice and travel vaccines, get in touch.
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