Get vaccinated before leaving for haj, umrah, Malaysian pilgrims told

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian pilgrims are required to take meningococcal vaccines before leaving for Saudi Arabia to perform their haj or umrah, says the Health Ministry.

It said this was in line with the protocols laid out by Saudi Arabia.

The ministry was responding to queries on the status of Malaysian pilgrims following an alert issued by Saudi Arabia on invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), which was linked to those returning from Mecca.

“Following a unique mass gathering like umrah and haj, pilgrims are bound to face public health risks, particularly infectious diseases such as influenza, MERS-Cov, meningitis, Covid-19, pneumonia and others,” the ministry said in a statement to The Star.

“As for meningitis, the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Alert Network report said there were 12 cases among umrah pilgrims since April 2024, and most of the infected individuals did not receive the MenACWY vaccine before their pilgrimage,” it said.

The ministry said Malaysian haj pilgrims can obtain the vaccine at government health facilities for free or at private healthcare facilities for a fee.

The jab can be taken two weeks before departure.

“As for umrah pilgrims, they can obtain this vaccine at private healthcare facilities,” it said.

Malaysian haj and umrah pilgrims are also advised to seek treatment at the ministry’s facility in Saudi Arabia if they are symptomatic.

“Health screenings are conducted through thermal scanners at international gateways to identify returning haj and umrah pilgrims who are symptomatic.

“If found to be symptomatic, further checks will be conducted and if the need arises, they will be referred to the nearest hospital for further treatment.

“Government and private healthcare facilities will be constantly reminded to be prepared to identify, check and treat haj and umrah pilgrims who come to their clinics or hospitals,” it added.

The ministry said it will continue to monitor the developments in Saudi Arabia and take steps to overcome it.

According to media reports, three people tested positive for IMD in the United Kingdom after returning from their pilgrimage.

IMD carries a rare bacterial meningococcal that invades the nervous system and it can lead to fatal illnesses, such as meningitis or septicaemia.

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