As per a circular distributed among umrah travel agents in UK yesterday, the Saudi consulate in London has advised that the Meningitis vaccine certificate, also known as ACWY certificate, has been made mandatory, once again for Umrah visa processing. The certificates will be needed along with passports. This is a surprise move by the Saudi embassy, given there was a waiver for the same for the last few years.

Travelers have shown mixed reactions on the initiative. Some are of the view that this is good for their own health, whereas others see it as an added impediment to an already slowing umrah visa process. Since the last year, Saudi Arabia has seen a significant MERS coronavirus outbreak, which was excellently controlled to a point of not affecting the pilgrims. There was also a flu outbreak during the Hajj season though, that caused quite some concern. However, none of these prompted the Saudi ministry of health or ministry of Hajj to request pilgrims to be vaccinated against the said diseases before coming for Hajj or Umrah. However, some polio hit countries like Nigeria, Chad, Pakistan and china were told to take polio vaccines before travelling to KSA, regardless of their previous status in this regard. Only those more prone to getting influenza (flu) virus have been advised to take a jab before coming.

Meningitis, on the other hand has always been taken seriously, and this has been further emphasized by this new circular. This rule is there for any submissions only though and the pilgrims, who have already secured their visas will be exempt from submitting the certificates to the embassy. However, it is highly likely, that the Ministry of Hajj and health officials will be keeping a strict check on this for pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia from now on and might request pilgrims to produce the certificates. Therefore it is strongly advised that a jab should be taken nonetheless.

It is speculated that due to the waiver, there was a significant number of pilgrims that was taking the instructions of getting a Meningitis jab and taking a certificate along, instructions lightly. This move has prompted them to make sure that they take a vaccine before they enter Saudi Arabia. The rule concerning getting the injection at least 10 days before departure to Saudi Arabia, has not been changed. The limit for exemption is also still set at three years. That means that, if you have taken an injection within the last 3 years, you are exempt from the requirement of taking a new one. However, if you lost documentary evidence of it, you are needed to get it done again. Please be sure to collect the ACWY certificate. Mutamirs should also note that they will need to post the certificate along with their documents. A digital copy is not being accepted as proof of vaccination.

Please also remember that the injection, sometimes follows fever like conditions, and need at least ten days t be effective. Therefore, it is advised to not wait till the last moment and set an appointment with your GP ASAP. Also, if you have little time left, a boots pharmacy near you may also be able to administer a dose for a charge. Infants do not need this jab. But people who are advised against the inoculation, will be needed to provide written excuse from their GP. However, acceptance of such an exemption is discretion of the Saudi embassy in London.


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