Swine flu vaccination a must for UAE hajj pilgrims: report

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The United Arab Emirates has said everyone going on the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia must be vaccinated against swine flu before leaving the country, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

"We have decided to make it mandatory for the hajj pilgrims to take the swine flu vaccine in order to protect them, protect their families and protect all those around them," Mahmoud Fikri, chairman of the National Committee for Combatting Swine Flu, was quoted as saying by The National.

This year's hajj, in the last week of November, will see some three million pilgrims descend on the Muslim holy city of Mecca, including around a million from within Saudi Arabia itself.

The UAE on Monday launched a campaign to increase awareness about A(H1N1) and the importance of vaccination, the newspaper said.

Members of the UAE's official hajj delegation were vaccinated at Abu Dhabi airport on Monday before leaving for Saudi Arabia.

Pilgrims can be inoculated free of charge at four centres in Dubai and 30 elsewhere in the UAE, the newspaper said.

They can also have pre-pilgrimage medical checkups at the centres, where any necessary medication will also be provided free during the hajj season.

"We cannot have the vaccine present everywhere and in every medical centre, but we will make sure pilgrims are told where to go," Fikri said, according to The National.

Pilgrims must be able to present a yellow International Certificate of Vaccination in order to make the pilgrimage, the paper added.

Although anti-swine flu vaccine takes 15 days to become effective, it said that there is no deadline for inoculations.