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Hajj pilgrims meningitis vaccine mandate

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Jakarta, IO – The Ministry of Religion has issued a departure schedule for Indonesian Hajj pilgrims in 2024. The first wave of Hajj pilgrims from Indonesia for the 1445 Hijriah Hajj season will leave May 12. Along with the release of the schedule, there was also widespread news about the meningitis vaccine. 

The Saudi Arabian government requires prospective pilgrims who will perform the pilgrimage to the Holy Land to show proof of having received a meningitis vaccine, as a requirements that must be met to purportedly maintain the health and safety of Hajj pilgrims throughout the world and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. 

So, how important is this meningitis vaccine that all prospective Hajj pilgrims must have, not only from Indonesia but throughout the world? 

dr. Dirga
dr. Dirga Sakti Rambe, Sp.PD, MSc (IO/Esti)

“Meningitis is dangerous because lives are at stake. This bacterial disease causes inflammation of the lining of the brain. The brain organ is protected by the meninges, and inflammation of the lining of the brain is thus called meningitis. Several types of bacteria can cause meningitis. In the context of the Hajj pilgrimage, meningitis is caused by bacteria known as Neisseria meningitis, a strain never found in Indonesia. Meningitis is transmitted through droplets, when sufferers sneeze or cough,” explained dr. Dirga Sakti Rambe, Sp.PD, MSc, in a talk show themed “Hajj Pilgrims Must Be Vaccinated against Meningitis” which was held on Tuesday (30/4/2024). 

The internist, who practices at EMC Pulomas Hospital and Menteng Mitra Afia Hospital, pointed out how Neisseria meningitis is an endemic disease in African countries. “Hajj pilgrims from all over the world gather in the same place for approximately one month, so the risk of transmission is huge, especially for elderly pilgrims who have comorbidities. There is actually a medical report of Indonesian Hajj pilgrims bringing home meningitis. They were infected while performing the Hajj,” he warned. 

Worsens Within a Few Days 

He reminded us that the meningitis vaccine should not be considered an obligation because lives are at stake. The deterioration caused by Neisseria meningitis bacteria is very rapid, in just a matter of days. 

“Indonesian Hajj pilgrims waited a long time for their departure schedule. Don’t let your Hajj pilgrimage be canceled because you failed to get vaccinated. Not being able to get the vaccine could also be an indicator of not passing the health test and thus not getting permission to perform the Hajj. However, everything must be assessed by a doctor. Please remember that Hajj is a tiring pilgrimage so it requires physical stamina,” he said. 

Read: Accurate Diagnosis Increases Cure Rate

All Hajj pilgrims can get a meningitis shot at the regional Health Service. “As long as you are healthy, you can be vaccinated. All healthy adults, which generally means those not hospitalized or seriously ill, are eligible for vaccination. Injection is directly into an arm muscle. There are five brands of meningitis vaccine in the world, but the Ministry of Health provides one brand for all Indonesian Hajj pilgrims, with a validity or protection of two years. After the vaccine, your hands may feel sore or you may run a slight fever; this is a sign that the vaccine has worked. As a precaution, drink plenty of water. If the fever is above 38 degrees, take paracetamol.” 

He emphasized that giving the vaccine is not a burden, but is an effort to prevent contracting meningitis, “However, other efforts are still needed, so that all Hajj pilgrims can carry out the Hajj pilgrimage smoothly. Elderly people with comorbidities must wear masks, eat nutritious food, get enough rest, and provide themselves with the medicines they usually take. Depart for the Holy Land in good health, and return home as a mabrur Haji!” (est)

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