British Hajj pilgrims need flu vaccines


London : British Muslims will need an injection against seasonal flu if they are travelling to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, under new travel rules announced highlighted here Tuesday. The Saudi government is requiring all pilgrims from Britain to provide a certificate of vaccination – which must be at least two weeks old – before they apply for a Hajj visa, officials said. They will also need to be vaccinated against H1N1 pandemic flu if a vaccine becomes universally available before the pilgrimage in November, amid fears over the global swine flu outbreak. In addition, Saudi Arabia and the World Health Organisation are advising groups at high risk from flu – including patients with chronic diseases, pregnant women, children and the elderly – not to attend Hajj for their own safety. In a statement, British Communities minister Shahid Malik said the measures had been introduced because of the risks associated with such a large concentration of people. “It is inevitable that at an event where two million people are expected to meet, viruses will spread quickly – and this year there is greater concern about flu, particularly for vulnerable people,” he said. “It is therefore vitally important that all British Muslims planning to travel to the Hajj this year check the Foreign Office’s travel advice and the new requirements set out by the Saudi government.” The Foreign Office is sending a Hajj delegation to Saudi Arabia, including doctors and consular staff, to provide medical and consular support to British pilgrims. There are around 1.6 million Moslems in the UK, the majority from Pakistani and Indian origin.

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