Meningitis vaccination matters
Travelling to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage?
Travelling to Africa?
All pilgrims going to Hajj or Umrah are now required by the Government of Saudi Arabia to have a valid certificate of vaccination against meningitis A, C, W and Y
Strains of meningitis differ globally, with different countries being troubled by different types of the disease. It is important for travellers to be aware of this in case they need to be vaccinated against certain strains before they travel.
This vaccine should have been received not more than 3 years and not less than 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia, and should be recorded in a vaccination book showing the traveller’s full name. Vaccination is also a requirement for obtaining a visa. If you were vaccinated more than 3 years ago, you will need to get re-vaccinated otherwise your visa application will be turned down and you will be refused entry.
There are currently two different types of vaccines available:
One type of vaccine is recommended for use in children over five years of age and adults. A single dose of 0.5ml should be given. It is not recommended for use in children under the age of five years.
The other type of vaccines is recommended for use in children over one year of age and adults. A single dose of 0.5ml should be given.
These vaccines are available from health centres and travel clinics.
Pilgrims are strongly advised to book an appointment with their GP three or more weeks before travel to allow time for the practice to order the vaccine, and to allow sufficient time for it to become fully effective. And if you are planning to take children under the age of two years, you should book about four months in advance.
About 10% of people experience soreness and redness at the injection site after having the vaccine to protect against groups A, C, W135 and Y meningitis. This usually lasts around 24-48 hours. Mild fever can also occur (this is usually more common in young children than in adults). Severe reactions are very rare.
Meningitis vaccination for travels to parts of Africa
Groups A, Y and W135 are more common elsewhere in the world. If you are travelling abroad, you can be vaccinated against groups A, C, W and Y of the bacteria.
High-risk areas for meningitis include:
Parts of Africa (the so-called meningitis belt in sub-Saharan Africa)
Vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis is recommended if you are travelling to a high-risk area and you will be:
Staying for longer than one month backpacking
Living with locals in rural areas attending the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages (religious journeys to Mecca, the centre of the Islamic world) in Saudi Arabia doing seasonal work in the Hajj area of Saudi Arabia.
Visitors arriving in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, and seasonal workers in the Hajj area, require proof of vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis.
In close proximity with local people who may be carrying the bacteria which is spread by droplets through coughing and sneezing.
The meningitis vaccine is not available via the NHS in the United Kingdom. It has always been a vaccine that you have had to pay for privately.
It is a single dose that confers immunity for 5 years.